Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is for the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham, representing the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Can the minister update the Senate on the cost that South Australians are facing to maintain their energy security?
I thank Senator Fawcett for his question and for his interest in this important area. Sadly, our home state of South Australia faces the least reliable, highest cost electricity in the country. Of course, we have learnt over recent weeks that those costs are only getting greater. Premier Jay Weatherill in South Australia, on 13 March, made what amounts to a $550 million admission of failure in terms of energy management in South Australia. That $550 million will be paid for by every woman, man and child across the state of South Australia. It will be paid for by every business in terms of increased costs of operation.
The need for the South Australian government to step in, as they now say they need to do, and build a new gas fired power station in South Australia is a clear admission from the South Australian government that they need more base-load power in SA and that they have become too reliant on intermittent sources of energy. It is a clear admission that the big experiment that Jay Weatherill said he was undertaking in terms of reliance on renewable energy has been a massive failure that is coming at a massive cost to the people and businesses of South Australia.
It should serve as a clear warning to the people of Queensland and their state government, with their 50 per cent target, and to the people of Victoria and their state government, with their 40 per cent target, that they should not rush to move to such intermittent sources without clear plans around how they maintain security through base load or improved storage capacity. Going it alone is what got South Australia into this mess and, sadly, half of the solution to get out appears to be going it alone again in terms of their plans to unilaterally rewrite the rules of the National Electricity Market, creating further risk of higher prices and higher costs that can be only to the detriment of South Australian households and businesses. (Time expired)
It seems today that it is very clear that the South Australian government did have alternatives. In fact, the offer was made to the South Australian government to keep the 546-megawatt Northern Power Station open for $25 million. How much is the South Australian government now going to spend on getting itself out of the mess? $550 million. So they could have invested $25 million and avoided the problems that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars in loss to industry but instead they are now going to spend $550 million—22 times more than it would have cost to avoid the problem altogether. This is the type of recklessness that, sadly, we have come to expect all too often from the Labor Party that South Australia has suffered under and that South Australian businesses, communities and homes are living under the cost of today.
(—) (): There is not just a real lesson for states like Queensland and Victoria, as I referenced before, but a big lesson for those opposite in the Labor Party and for Mr Shorten from the costs and the failures that we have seen in South Australia. That of course is that they need to abandon their reckless policy of a 50 per cent renewable energy target that has no modelling behind it, no analysis of how they would meet it, no analysis of the cost of doing so and certainly no concept whatsoever of what it would mean to reliability across the National Energy Market, what it would mean to affordability for Australian households and what it would mean in terms of the capacity of the market to provide reliable, affordable energy to Australian businesses that rely upon such energy for jobs in the future. Our government is committed to meeting our emissions reductions targets, but it will not be doing so at the expense of affordability and it will not be doing so at the expense of reliability— (Time expired)