Thursday, 18 March 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Senator Seselja. Can the minister update the Senate on the potential impacts of the announced early closure of the Yallourn coal-fired power station on the security of electricity supplies in Australia?
I thank Senator Canavan for a very important question. Yallourn has provided the reliable generation needed to keep energy prices low and the grid secure in Victoria and the National Electricity Market for decades. As it's an employer of around 500 staff and an important contributor to the local economy, our thoughts are with the workers, their families and local business owners who rely on the power station for their livelihoods. While the Commonwealth government understands this is a commercial decision, the exit of 1,480 megawatts of reliable energy generation brings with it reliability and affordability concerns. As it's an essential service, the Commonwealth government expects the market to step up to deliver enough dispatchable generation to keep the lights on and prices low once Yallourn closes. While coal exits impact reliability and system security, the major impact for consumers will be the significant increase in prices if not adequately replaced with dispatchable capacity. We've already seen this happen with the closures of Northern in South Australia and most recently Hazelwood in Victoria, where wholesale prices skyrocketed by 85 per cent.
The Commonwealth will model the impact of the closure to hold industry to account on the dispatchable capacity needed to ensure affordable, reliable power for consumers. This will deliver needed transparency around the impact of Yallourn's closure. We're not going to stand idly by and watch a loss of reliability and affordability. We want to see industry step up and we also want to see that consumers are properly looked after and we get the affordability and reliability that Victorians deserve and, indeed, that all Australians deserve. What we won't do is risk the stability and affordability of our energy system, as those opposite would do. Labor have a 2050 energy policy but won't explain how they'll get there. They won't explain how much it'll cost. Labor has tried it before and will try it again. We're supporting technology, not taxes. That's how you bring down power prices and deliver reliability.
Delivering reliable and affordable energy is one of the highest priorities of this government. In Senator Canavan's home state we are investing in a number of projects that will help secure the reliable and more affordable energy we need, and we know this will drive further private investment. We're investing in CopperString 2.0, with over 1,000 kilometres of high-voltage transmission line between Mount Isa and Hughenden. CopperString will deliver 750 direct construction jobs and connect North Queensland with the National Electricity Market to help deliver lower-cost power. We're also delivering more investment in reliable generation through our Underwriting New Generation Investments program. We've got a 13-point plan to ensure Australian gas is working for all Australians. Those opposite have no energy policy, just a plan for more and bigger taxes. We have a plan focused on technology, not taxes. We'll protect jobs, we'll deliver reliable energy and we'll drive down costs for households and businesses.
Can the minister advise the Senate on the government's actions to deliver more reliable and more affordable power to Australians, and any risks to increased reliability and affordability for households and businesses?
Opposition senators interjecting—
Keeping energy prices down and maintaining—
Senator Watt interjecting—
Keeping energy prices down and maintaining secure power supply is central to our COVID economic recovery and is critical to supporting jobs. There are, however, a number of risks to this recovery. What Labor don't understand is that we need sufficient dispatchable energy capacity to keep prices low, keep the lights on and back up the record investment in renewables. That's why we've set a target for the electricity sector to deliver a thousand megawatts of new dispatchable energy to replace the Liddell power station before it closes down in 2023. That's why we'll back a gas power plant in the Hunter if the private sector doesn't replace Liddell's capacity—
That's why we are unlocking billions in new investment in our energy system through the Technology Investment Roadmap. We support technology and totally reject Labor's taxes because their taxes won't keep prices down, they won't deliver for our energy system and they won't protect our economy.