The man responsible for Australia’s overloaded energy system has addressed the media after an emergency meeting.
Energy Secretary Chris Bowen says regulators will be given more power to buy and store gas after crisis talks with state and territory energy ministers.
Bowen said Australian energy ministers agreed to take 11 actions on Wednesday evening, but admitted there were no “silver bullet” or “magic answers”.
“We also agreed that we would work to strengthen the powers of regulators to ensure they have full transparency, particularly the gas market, of what is happening and to ensure that all behavior is in the best interest. of the market and consumers. at all times,” he told reporters after the meeting.
The ministers also agreed to give the Australian energy market operator powers to properly procure and store gas as a supply.
“Australians may be surprised to learn that that power didn’t exist — that the Australian energy market operator couldn’t buy some gas and keep it in reserve and release it for emergencies and crisis situations,” Bowen said.
“That is technically possible, there are storage facilities all over the country. We agreed to work to give AEMO that power and to give them that power urgently.
“It will give us the capacity and tools needed to manage this crisis in the future and to avoid crises like this in the future.”
Mr Bowen said it had also been agreed to instruct energy regulators to urgently proceed with the development of the capacity mechanism.
The regulators, who informed the meeting, have promised to prepare a further draft in the coming days.
“We would really like to see this implemented with some urgency,” Bowen added.
Capacity mechanisms are common in other parts of the world and explicitly value capacity in the national electricity market.
Ministers also agreed to work on and advance a national transition plan to renewables ahead of their next meeting in July.
“The reason we are in this crisis today is because not enough planning has been done for the necessary changes,” Bowen said.
“We need an integrated plan that covers the full range of transformation that is underway and needs to happen faster.”
The emergency meeting was called to discuss the rising cost of electricity as wholesale electricity and gas prices rise to “unprecedented” levels.
“President Putin’s power price hikes” have been blamed for what will be a “very expensive winter” brought on by Russia’s war in Ukraine and a host of domestic problems.
The conflict has led to a global gas shortage, leaving Australia reliant on its aging coal-fired power plants – at least 25 percent of which are offline due to planned or unplanned outages.
Mr Bowen previously said there was “no easy solution” to solve all the problems caused by the former government’s nine-year slack energy policy.
“What really caused this problem is that we haven’t made the investments we need in renewables and transmission and storage,” he told ABC Radio.
“Over the past few years, we’ve had a 17 percent reduction in renewable energy investment… We need nine times as much renewable energy to make the system more stable.”
Mr Bowen said Wednesday’s crisis meeting, called for by a broad coalition of top bodies, was an opportunity for all states and territories to work “hand in hand” with the commonwealth to better plan the transition to renewables.
“We are one team… We have to make this transition right,” he said.
Nationals leader David Littleproud suggested one way forward would be to move to nuclear power – despite it being on the decline around the world.
“This is emerging technology…I don’t think we should be afraid to have that conversation,” Mr. Littleproud told ABC News.
But Mr Littleproud’s call is backed by Dan Walton, the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union.
Speaking at Sky News Australia’s Economic Outlook forum, Mr Walton said he was “a strong supporter” of nuclear power but the ship had sailed.
“It’s harder to see a solution where nuclear power plays a more active role in this country. I would have liked to have happened already,” he said.
“But I think the development of hydrogen and other and battery storage is likely to overtake the demand for it.”
Treasurer Jim Chalmers agreed, “The economy isn’t right.”
“I don’t think they ever really piled up in Australia,” he said.
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