AEMO's 'Conflicts of interest'

September 10, 2018

Key members of the powerful operator of Australia’s electricity market have links to major renewable companies in Australia and abroad - something of great concern to the Conservative Party which is committed to reducing the cost of power.

The Advertiser reports at least two directors of the Australian Energy Market Operator hold directorships in big energy companies operating in Australia.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor told The Advertiser, “I won’t let anything get between this Government and lower electricity prices for Australian households and businesses."

AEMO, which operates Australia’s largest gas and electricity markets and power systems, has fiercely defended the links to renewable energy and gas companies, saying its “non-independent” directors can have interests in power companies operating in the country as long as they declare a conflict of interest.

Recent modelling has shown that 100% renewable energy generation is four times more expensive than nuclear or coal-fired options.

But senior industry sources say there is growing concern about the board members’ connections to power companies , with one figure labelling AEMO a “renewable energy zealot”. The links include:

AEMO board member Tony Concannon, a former chief executive of International Power which operated several coal-fired stations, who is a director of at least three renewable energy companies operating in Australia, while also owning a company providing advice to clients about Australia’s electricity industry; Betsy Donaghey (pictured left), also a board member of AEMO, who holds a directorship in gas company Cooper Energy;

THE chair of AEMO’s expert advisory panel, Chloe Munro (pictured right), who is also the chair of a solar company in Australia, Impact Investor Group’s Solar Funds, and;

AEMO chief executive officer Audrey Zibelman who was forced to give up stock in UScompany Viridity Energy in 2015, a company she co-founded , because of a conflict in her role as New York State’s top energy regulator. Mr Taylor vowed to do everything in his power to ensure AEMO’s independence was upheld.

A spokesman for AEMO said Ms Donaghey and Mr Concannon were not appointed as independent directors and had made declarations of interests.

“AEMO has robust processes for conflict declaration and management of any perceived, potential and actual conflicts of interest,” the spokesman said.

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