SYDNEY, April 13 Australia's antitrust regulator
said it plans to let two dozen companies in the state of South
Australia bargain collectively for electricity purchasing
contracts, saying the move would guarantee supply and improve
The country's fifth biggest state, which is heavily
dependent on wind and solar energy, was crippled by several
power outages last year after heavy winds knocked out an
interstate power connector and cut electricity to residents and
The Federal energy minister has since described the state's
energy supply as a "basket case" and companies from renewable
energy battery maker Tesla Inc to software maker
Atlassian Corp Plc have asked to step in to devise a
A "buying group" of 24 miners, winemakers, grocery stores,
universities and other companies representing about a sixth of
the state's energy consumption has meanwhile said it wants to
bargain collectively for power contracts to bring down prices
that have been criticised as too high.
On Thursday, the Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission (ACCC) said it had made a draft determination to
waive anti-cartel laws and allow the companies to bargain
collectively for 11 years.
"The proposed conduct ... has a real chance of changing the
wholesale market dynamics, where it allows existing participants
to use existing plant more efficiently, or allowing new entry of
electricity generation into South Australia," ACCC Chairman Rod
Sims said in a statement.
"The tender may provide further competition benefits by
combining demand and increasing the participants' bargaining
power in the retail supply of energy contracts."
The South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME),
which applied for the exemption on behalf of the 24 companies,
said the draft ruling "means we can now go out and talk to
electricity suppliers about options to take the pressure off
some of the most important businesses in this state".
SACOME said it expects the regulator to give its final
decision in June.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Joseph Radford)