Federal government calls for outrage over AGL profits

meter reading, big stick
Image: Energy Minister Angus Taylor, Bidgee

By Nichola Davies

Federal minister for energy Angus Taylor has released a scathing statement over AGL’s announcement of a $537 million half-yearly net profit, saying Australians should be outraged at the energy retailer.

“The big energy companies continue to take record profits, while Australian families and businesses continue to struggle under the burden of high energy prices,” the statement reads.

“These companies have had it too good for too long, and are desperate to protect their patch from fairer rules introduced by the Morrison Government.”

AGL’s half yearly profit is up 10 per cent from $487 million in 2018, and 138 per cent higher than 2011 figures.

In October 2018, the Morrison Government introduced its Big Stick legislation, which has been widely criticised by industry for being an overreach into the free market through allowing the government divestment powers, as well as discouraging investment.

Today, the Energy Minister reminded the public the ACCC condemned the practices of big energy companies, describing them as unacceptable and unsustainable, and the Morrison Government “firmly believes in competitive free enterprise that serves customers”.

In a submission to the Senate inquiry to the Big Stick legislation – the Treasury Laws Amendment (Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct) Bill 2018Origin Energy said the Bill is “unworkable, confusing and discourages investment”.

“Repeated statements from the big energy companies this week at the ‘Big Stick’ legislation Senate committee hearings, suggesting a lack of investment in the energy sector, are utterly false and hypocritical,” Minister Taylor’s statement reads.

“The big energy companies should hate this Bill. It is designed to force them to finally put their customers first.

“If energy companies engage in prohibited activity, the Bill provides powers to issue fines, and to separate or sell generation assets to increase competition and prevent cartel-like behaviour.

“We make no apology for this legislation. If the market was working well, it would not be required.”

This morning the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) released its draft determination aimed to improve the transparency of the Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) scheme.

In a separate statement, the Energy Minister’s office says the AEMC’s recommendations highlight the need for more reliable generation.

In recognition of change that needs to take place within the energy retail sector, 16 of the big energy companies have signed the just-launched Energy Charter, including AGL.