Money Finance News Draft public interest laws to give Treasurer more power over energy companies
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Draft public interest laws to give Treasurer more power over energy companies

Josh Frydenberg could be given new powers under a bill to be introduced to parliament next week.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg could force energy retailers to sell off assets if its deemed in the public interest to do so. Photo: AAP
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    Energy companies will be forced to sell their assets if it’s deemed to be in the public interest, under laws reportedly being considered by the government.
    Energy retailers could be forced to restructure their companies and sell their assets if it’s deemed to be in the public interest, leaked draft laws reveal.
    The legislation would give Treasurer Josh Frydenberg the power to tell the electricity companies to dispose of their assets, while also restricting potential buyers, Fairfax Media reports on Tuesday.
    Mr Frydenberg’s powers to issue such an order would have to be triggered through the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ruling an energy company has engaged in prohibited conduct.
    The coalition is hoping to introduce the bill to parliament next week when it resumes for the final sitting fortnight of the year.
    The move is part of the federal government’s strategy to bring down power prices, through making the sector more competitive. Legal advice provided to the Australian Energy Council has questioned the reach of the government’s powers.
    Clear and objective criteria are needed about how the power would be used, otherwise it risks stepping into the territory of courts, the advice says.
    Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler on Monday hinted the opposition would salvage parts of the coalition’s abandoned National Energy Guarantee, which had sought to link reliability and emissions targets.
    Building new renewable energy projects puts downward pressure on power prices, Mr Butler told an industry event in Adelaide.
    “The idea that there is this false choice and you have to pick, I think reflects the poor, immature nature of the debate here in Australia,” he said.
    Industry specific emissions targets could be set, he hinted.
    “It is probably the best opportunity to find ways to reduce power bills and carbon emissions in the built environment, in the industrial sector, and in the household sector.”
    The opposition will reveal its energy policy later this week.