The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) is calling for an independent review of Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) following the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) intervention to temporarily take over national energy supplies in June 2022.

With wholesale energy prices surging last month due to high coal and gas prices driven by the war in Ukraine and approximately 25 per cent of Australia’s coal power stations offline, the AEMO took the reins of the NEM to stabilise the market, set administered prices for wholesale power, and control power generation plants to protect consumers and businesses.

In light of this unprecedented action, the ETU is calling for closer scrutiny of the NEM.

“The ETU has been sounding the alarm about the NEM for years,” says ETU acting national secretary Michael Wright. “This vindicates our long-held concerns that the market is broken and beyond repair.

“The current regulatory system fails us during the good times, with rampant profiteering and price gouging, and fails us when times are bad. It’s the result of almost a decade of wilful neglect from a Coalition government.

“The experiment in synthetic markets – trying to deliver essential public services through profit-motivated, tax avoiding multinational energy corporations – has failed shockingly.

“Gas and coal companies prioritising the export market is just a symptom of a problem, not the cause. The cause is complete regulatory failure.”

Wright says Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Energy Chris Bowen now have a clear mandate to order an urgent review of the NEM.

“We cannot return to the status quo,” he says. “By AEMO’s decision to take back control of Australia’s power generation, the state is the only reliable authority which should be allowed to operate such an essential public service.

“A national review must consider how to remove the dead wood of rampant financialisation and short-termism that now dominates the NEM, which is placing a huge brake on the energy sector’s capacity to improve productivity and efficiency.

“It must also consider the regulatory and policy barriers to building and maintaining a fit-for-purpose energy network by ensuring the full and fast implementation of the government’s Powering Australia policy as the only sensible roadmap out of this mess.”