Lyndon Rowe. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian.
Lyndon Rowe. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian.

The man who heads WA’s economic watchdog has been appointed to the chair of State-owned electricity provider Synergy.

Lyndon Rowe, who has been the chairman of the Economic Regulation Authority for 10 years, was announced as the new chairman of Synergy at a press conference this afternoon.

Mr Rowe succeeds Michael Smith, who controversially walked out on the utility last month along with three other Synergy directors after butting heads with Energy Minister Mike Nahan.

The appointment of Mr Rowe, who has relinquished his position at the ERA, suggests Dr Nahan is likely to push ahead with ambitious plans to carve up and eventually sell off State-controlled Synergy.

The utility was created last year after the Barnett Government announced it would merge former power generator Verve with the State’s electricity retailer – also known as Synergy.

Under Mr Rowe’s chairmanship, the ERA was highly critical of the decision to merge the two companies, saying it was anti-competitive and bad for consumers.

Asked about his previously stated views, Mr Rowe confirmed he held them but said his task now required him to focus on making sure Synergy was efficient as possible.

He also said he would advise the Government on the market’s future evolution.

Dr Nahan noted Mr Rowe had led a long career as an economist and this would place him in a strong position to aid Synergy’s next moves.

Before becoming the head of the ERA, Mr Rowe was the boss of the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as a lecturer at a Curtin University.

“Mr Rowe brings a wealth of experience in areas of the electricity market and a new perspective to the role as the full-time chairman of Synergy,” Dr Nahan said.

“The new business will continue to evolve as the State Government focuses on dealing with the challenges confronting energy utilities in a changing marketplace and reducing Synergy’s reliance on its operating subsidy.

“Mr Rowe is the right person to position the new Synergy for the future while simultaneously ensuring the government trading enterprise maintains its critical role in underpinning the State’s energy security.”

Dr Nahan also announced the appointment of David Hunt as a Synergy director.

Mr Hunt is a former director of the old Synergy, has served as chief executive of New Zealand-based Contact Energy, and is a current director of Concept Consulting.

The West Australian

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