Australia’s energy ministers will convene for an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the rising cost of electricity as wholesale electricity and gas prices soar to an “unprecedented” level.
“President Putin’s power price surges” are being blamed for what is set to be a “very expensive winter” caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and a host of domestic issues.
The conflict has led to a global gas shortage, prompting Australia to rely on its aging coal-fired power stations – at least 25 percent of which are offline due to scheduled or unscheduled outages.
Camera IconA, perfect storm of conditions, has led to an ‘unprecedented’ rise in energy prices. NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw Credit: News Corp Australia
NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said power prices would remain high as long as the war in Ukraine was going on.
“What we can do is get our coal-fired power stations back online so that they are providing the bulk of the electricity at this time,” he told Channel 7.
Mr. Kean said while the crisis “shouldn’t feed through to bills in the short term”, it will increase wholesale prices over the long term unless the nation’s energy ministers find a solution to drive down power prices.
He said Australia needed to ramp up its transition to renewables to keep prices down and products high.
Camera IconEnergy Minister Chris Bowen says there’s no ‘easy fix’ to the problems left by the former government. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia
Energy Minister Chris Bowen said there was “no easy fix” to solve all the problems caused by the former government’s nine years of lackluster energy policy.
“What’s caused this problem is that we haven’t had the investment we need in renewables and transmission and storage,” he told ABC Radio.
“Over the last few years, we’ve had a 17 percent reduction in renewables investment … We need nine times the amount of utility-scale renewables to make the system more stable.”
Mr. Bowen said Wednesday’s crisis meeting, called for by a broad coalition of peak bodies, was a chance for all states and territories to start working “hand in glove” with the commonwealth to better plan the transition to renewables.
“We’re one team … We’ve got to get this transition right,” he said.
Camera IconThe gas shortage caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine has already started to burn a hole in Australian households’ pockets. NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards Credit: News Corp Australia
On Tuesday, numerous peak bodies from the energy industry called on the ministers to work together “both on immediate responses to calm chaos and on longer-term measures to moderate energy prices and cut emissions by improving supply and lifting demand-side efficiency, energy management and fuel switching”.
“A collaborative response between the commonwealth, states, and energy stakeholders is needed because no one player holds all the powers, resources and information to resolve this crisis,” the group said.
“A staged response is essential because this crisis includes both acute price pain and the likelihood of chronic high prices after that.”
Nationals senator Matt Canavan knocked back the group’s claim that there needed to be a faster build-out of large-scale renewables, suggesting coal was still the best way forward.
“Let’s hope this meeting ends the war on coal … There’s been a war on our coal and gas industries for the last few years; that’s why we have the high prices,” he told the Nine Network.
His party leader David Littleproud has suggested a way forward would be to transition to nuclear power – despite it being on the decline worldwide.
“This is emerging technology … I don’t think we should be afraid to have that conversation,” Mr. Littleproud told ABC News.
“Let’s be mature enough as a country to go down this track, work constructively, and understand the opportunities.”