State government's energy plan delivers mixed signals

BLACKOUT: State government claims it's energy plan is working to create more reliable electrictiy this summer.
BLACKOUT: State government claims it's energy plan is working to create more reliable electrictiy this summer.

A recent report released by The Australian Energy Market Operator says that the state governments energy plan has helped to reduce the risk of blackouts this summer. 

It doesn’t however rule out the chance of both South Australia and Victoria being sent into complete darkness if either state is to experience an unplanned outage at a major gas or coal plant. 

With both states experiencing a tight supply and demand rate, the report suggests that government implement methods to alleviate this risk.

In a second report commissioned by the federal government, it was recommended that 1000MW of ‘strategic reserve’ could be the answer. 

Minister for Energy Tom Koutsantonis said that the supply shortfall in South Australia will be covered by the backup power plant and grid scale battery which is scheduled to be in place by December 1. 

“Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg love to criticise South Australia’s energy plan in an attempt to distract from their own inaction on energy policy, but what their own reports prove is that our energy plan is working,” he said.

“One of the reports, requested by Josh Frydenberg himself, also recommends that the Federal Government follow our lead and install emergency back-up power plants in time for summer.”

Although the report suggests the state’s energy plan will work to help alleviate blackout risks, the Opposition's energy spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan said South Australians will continue to suffer with the most expensive and least reliable electricity in the nation. 

“Independent forecasts show South Australia will experience higher electricity prices and supply shortfalls under the latest state government energy plans and this is especially frustrating because they could have been avoided,” he said.

“Minister Koutsantonis says that his latest energy policy will reduce the high prices that his previous energy policies have created over the last 16 years, but he can’t say when.”

The report highlights the vulnerability of the nation’s electricity supply, one that has only increased since the closure of the Northern Power Station in 2016. 

With AGL announcing plans to close all of its coal-fired power stations by 2050, the Liddell Power Station is next on the chopping block with closure forecast for 2022.

Prime Minister Turnball has however revealed he has been in talks with AGL about the possibility of extending the life of the Liddell Power Station for five more years beyond 2022, causing Minister Koutsantonis to question why the same option wasn’t given to South Australia or Victoria.

“After years of inaction and uncertainty from the federal government that has driven up power prices across the country, we’ve seen the Prime Minister incredibly suggest he may use tax-payer money to pay a coal-fired power station in that state to keep operating,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“He didn’t make that offer to South Australia or Victoria, but for his voters on the North Shore of Sydney, he springs into action.”

Mr van Holst Pellekaan has hit back at the Ministers remarks saying that the state government could have funded the Northern Power Station but chose to explore other avenues. 

“Alinta asked the state government for $8M per year to keep our power station open for three more years of transition, but Minister Koutsantonis chose to spend $550M of taxpayers’ money on his latest plan instead which immediately delivered massive increases in electricity prices,” he said.

With summer just around the corner, the state governments energy plan will soon be put to the test with the country set to experience another sweltering entry into the new year.