The head of WA's economic watchdog will be paid $550,000 a year to be chairman of a State-owned energy company he believes should not exist.
Energy Minister Mike Nahan confirmed yesterday that Lyndon Rowe, who until Monday was the chairman of the Economic Regulation Authority, will be the new chairman of electricity provider Synergy.
The appointment comes after the shock walkout of former chairman Mike Smith, who resigned last month with three of Synergy's directors over a stoush with Dr Nahan.
It also comes despite the fact Mr Rowe had been one of the biggest critics of the Government's decision last year to merge power generator Verve with retailer Synergy.
Mr Rowe will keep the salary he was paid at the ERA on the basis he is in the role full-time.
Mr Smith, who was chairman on a part-time basis, was paid $115,000 in 2012-13.
The appointment is a sign Dr Nahan intends to push ahead with ambitious plans to shake up WA's electricity sector.
Under the plans flagged last year by Dr Nahan, Synergy would be broken up into two or more "gentailers" - which generate and retail electricity - before eventually being sold into private hands.
Dr Nahan was slapped down by Colin Barnett over the comments. The Premier insisted the Government did not have a big electricity privatisation agenda.
Mr Rowe's ascension, which was endorsed by Mr Barnett in Cabinet on Monday, will likely bolster Dr Nahan's chances of enacting reform.
Mr Rowe has been a vocal advocate for competition and privatisation in the electricity industry.
Dr Nahan said though Mr Rowe's salary at Synergy would be more than his predecessor, the net cost to Government was only $70,000 because his replacement at the ERA would work on a part-time basis for much less money.
Shadow energy minister Bill Johnston praised Mr Rowe as an "outstanding" thinker but criticised the extra cost and the full-time nature of the appointment, saying it would undermine Synergy's chief executive. "It's not proper practice for a large business to have a full-time chairman and that is clearly inappropriate," he said.
Mr Johnston also queried how Mr Rowe could have been appointed when there were not enough directors left on Synergy's board to approve it.
Mr Rowe conceded that he had been critical of the Verve-Synergy merger but it was now his job to ensure it was as efficient as possible.
Under Mr Rowe's chairmanship, the ERA was highly critical of the decision to merge generator Verve and retailer Synergy, saying it was anti-competitive.