Following a raft of energy policy announcements from the Federal Opposition, industry leaders and energy councils have weighed in with their thoughts on Labor’s plans for the industry.
Australian Energy Council chief executive, Sarah McNamara, said Labor’s ongoing support for bipartisan energy policy provides another opportunity for the Government to end more than a decade of policy and investment uncertainty.
Ms McNamara said governments have a poor track record in doing this efficiently, and it tends to increase rather than reduce risks for other would-be investors.
“The energy industry recognises that Labor is committed to a stronger carbon target, and welcomes the clarity Labor has provided regarding the role we would play to meet it if it wins government.
“The proposal for a major review into energy efficiency policy is also welcome. The Australian Energy Council considers there remains opportunities in this area, and there is room to improve and harmonise existing state mechanisms.
“We look forward to seeing more details on Labor’s modernisation and funding proposals. However we also caution that expanding networks is only one of many options available in the process of industry transition.
Each network investment needs to be properly tested for its costs and benefits before going ahead to ensure it represents good value, but also to ensure it does not undermine generation investments.”
Energy Networks Australia’s CEO, Andrew Dillon, said the proposal for a $5 billion investment fund to support projects aligned with those identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in its Integrated System Plan (ISP) was a positive move.
“Around the world, we are seeing a move to greater connection between generation sources and customers as grids modernise to integrate more variable renewable generation,” Mr Dillon said.
“Australia needs better connection between regions and across states so energy can be more efficiently moved around the national system. A key benefit of this is more competition in wholesale markets, which means downward pressure on prices for customers.”
Mr Dillon said the proposal to support more household batteries was also welcome – provided there was a transition to smarter power pricing.
“Battery storage can help smooth electricity demand and reduce the pressure on the grid at peak times on hot summer evenings,” Mr Dillon said.
“But batteries could make things worse if we haven’t got incentives to encourage people to save money by using less power at peak times. Fairer electricity pricing is the key.”
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said Labor’s suite of policies would keep the wave of large-scale clean energy investment rolling and accelerate the move towards more batteries for homes with solar panels.
“Labor’s decision to adopt the architecture of the NEG and pursue a return to bipartisan energy policy in the future is a welcome approach and clearly the preference of the business and investment community,” Mr Thornton said.
“However, given political bipartisanship has been elusive for more than a decade, it is a smart and sensible move for the ALP to leave the door ajar to pursue direct investment models that would deliver more clean energy investment in the absence of bipartisan support should it win government.
“The ALP commitment to a $200 million home battery program will be a major boost for up to 100,000 households to install batteries. We welcome the focus on safety and quality alongside the new battery program, as well as a commitment to ensure skills and training development to support the massive economic opportunity this presents.
“It is clear Labor recognises both the challenge and remarkable opportunity of moving from fossil fuels to clean energy in the decades ahead, and has moved strongly with a range of measures to modernise Australia’s energy system.”
The Energy Efficiency Council also welcomed Labor’s focus on improving energy efficiency, and said it is a much-needed move that will help lower energy bills, reduce emissions, and pave the way to a clean energy system.
Luke Menzel, CEO of the Energy Efficiency Council, said Labor’s new plan will help slash energy bills for Aussie families and businesses.
“Labor’s plan to help manufacturers to save energy is smart. This will cut energy waste, boost productivity and reduce emissions – a win-win-win,” Mr Menzel said.
“It will also create thousands of jobs. The latest research on jobs in the energy efficiency sectors shows huge potential to ramp up energy efficiency jobs.”
Mr Menzel added that the Commonwealth government must work with States and Territories to achieve effective progress across the country.
“However, there are things that we should be getting on with straight away. For too long, Australia’s failure on energy and fuel efficiency has hit everyday people and small businesses hard. There’s no time to waste in getting on with the job of implementing energy and fuel efficiency measures that are good for the planet and the pocket.
“Helping Australians save on energy costs is a no-brainer that should be supported by all political parties. We’re looking forward to more announcements from all sides of politics in the run up to the Federal election.”
Energy Consumers Australia CEO, Rosemary Sinclair, also said it is important to focus on and fund energy efficiency, which must be at the centre of national energy policy.
“To rebuild confidence and empower consumers, they need to be equipped with the individualised services, information and tools to manage their energy use, home comfort and costs,” Ms Sinclair said.
“We’ve also said for some years that frameworks like the National Energy Guarantee that integrate energy and emissions policy and rely on markets and competitive processes are preferred.”
The Smart Energy Council welcomed the national target of one million battery storage systems by 2025 and said storing clean renewable energy is the key to unlocking Australia’s renewable energy potential.
With battery prices falling and electric vehicle battery manufacturing powering ahead, the Smart Energy Council said 1 million batteries by 2025 is achievable.
APPEA Chief Executive, Dr Malcolm Roberts, said Labor’s plan to implementing the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) would help attract the new, long-term investments needed to build a reliable, affordable and cleaner electricity sector.
“Australia needs an energy policy framework which cuts emissions without jeopardising reliable electricity supply or inflating energy prices,” Dr Roberts said.
“APPEA believes these goals are best achieved by allowing the market to innovate and invest in a stable policy environment.”
“The energy market has suffered from too many ad hoc interventions from too many governments.
Dr Roberts also welcomed Labor’s acknowledgements that “Labor’s policy recognises that gas will be an important part of a that cleaner electricity future sector.
“For example, it is encouraging to see a commitment to facilitating investment in infrastructure to unlock new gas supply,” he noted.
Dr Roberts however voiced concern for Labor’s target of a 45 per cent cut in emissions from the electricity sector.
“This target of a 45 per cent cut in emissions from the electricity sector is higher than the de facto target we have today. This more ambitious target will need to be analysed for its impact on energy prices.”