Energy groups plea to politicians: stop pointing the finger

Eighteen groups in the energy industry have rallied together to issue a plea for political leaders to “stop partisan antics” and work together to achieve energy reform.

The appeal comes as three conservative state oppositions – in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia – promise that in government they would scrap independent state renewable energy targets in favour of a single national approach.

The groups’ statement follows the current hyper blame game in the debate about South Australian power failures, the role of renewables there and elsewhere, and the way forward to a more secure national system.

In the joint statement, the groups said there is simply no room for partisan politics when the reliability, affordability and sustainability of the country’s energy system is at stake.

“The status quo of policy uncertainty, lack of coordination and unreformed markets is increasing costs, undermining investment and worsening reliability risks,” the statement said.

“This impacts all Australians, including vulnerable low-income households, workers, regional communities and trade-exposed industries.”

Groups involved in the release of the joint statement included the Australian Energy Council, Energy Users Association of Australia, Energy Networks Australia, and the Clean Energy Council.

They said “finger pointing” will not solve Australia’s energy challenges.

“More than a decade of this has made most energy investments impossibly risky,” the statement said.

“This has pushed prices higher while hindering transformational change of our energy system. The result is enduring dysfunction in the electricity sector.

“We need mature, considered debate. Market reform can’t happen unless the Commonwealth and states agree, and policies can’t last and motivate investment without broad cross-party support.”

Politicians from all sides of politics and all levels of government need to come together to work through the necessary solutions to our energy market challenges, the statement said.

“COAG has already established a strong policy process for this – the Finkel Review. Politicians need to back it and work with it,” the groups said.

“As the Preliminary Report of the Finkel Review correctly notes, many of the technological, economic and consumer trends transforming our energy systems are irreversible.

“Policy and market designs need to evolve if investors are to deliver the energy services Australians require at a price they can afford. A raft of reforms are needed to encourage and support flexibility throughout the system.

“The next stage of the Finkel Review should be an opportunity to explore these possibilities and develop a comprehensive and integrated suite of reforms. Policy should be implemented promptly with broad based political support.”

Energy policy is expected to feature heavily in Parliament this week, after the heatwave left parts of the country in the dark.

Last week, almost 40,000 South Australian residents were left in the dark after the Australian Energy Market Operator ordered 100MW of load shedding.

Days later, NSW and the ACT were threatened with the same scenario as the heatwave put pressure on the grid.

The full list of groups is: Australian Aluminium Council, Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Council of Social Services, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Energy Council, The Australian Industry Group, Australian Steel Institute, Business Council of Australia, Cement Industry Federation, Chemistry Australia, Clean Energy Council, Energy Efficiency Council, Energy Networks Australia, Energy Users Association of Australia, Investor Group on Climate Change, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, The Climate Institute, and WWF Australia.

February 14, 2017

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