Opinion Pieces


January 05, 2017

It's only a few days into 2017 but already we have news of rising electricity prices.

Unfortunately, no one should be surprised given repeated warnings from industry and experts about the impact of the continuing national energy policy vacuum on prices, reliability and pollution levels.

Late last year, 18 diverse organisations including the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Aluminium Council, Energy Networks Australia, St Vincent de Paul and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, released a statement calling for an end to the policy uncertainty, stating: "The status quo of policy uncertainty, lack of coordination and unreformed markets is increasing costs, undermining investment and worsening reliability risks."

The Turnbull Government has a clear opportunity and obligation to modernise our energy sector and put in place sensible national policy. We need a clear national policy to modernise and clean up electricity generation, manage the retirement and replacement of aging coal fired power stations, manage the introduction of new technologies such as distributed generation and storage and ensure affordability and security.

Industry, consumers, unions and the community sector are unified in calling for reform and, in particular, for an emission intensity scheme (EIS) for the electricity sector. Labor took such a scheme to the election and we still stand ready to work with the Government on a badly needed bipartisan approach that will deliver lower prices, better reliability and cut pollution.

But even though there is wide support for an EIS, including from the Government's own Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, such a scheme was ruled out by Prime Minister Turnbull in December, after pressure from the extreme right of his party.

The Prime Minister made this decision to dump an EIS while citing cost impacts, even though independent experts have estimated that an EIS would save households and businesses $15 billion in energy bills over a decade.

Even the Prime Minister's former energy adviser, Danny Price spoke out against the Prime Minister's stance, stating: "This shows a lack of spine... By doing this, it means they are the party of increasing electricity prices and reduced energy security."

Independent experts have estimated that an EIS would save households and businesses $15 billion in energy bills over a decade.

Adding to his earlier criticism in an opinion piece published yesterday, Mr Price added: "Doing nothing to develop a cost-effective national plan to reduce emissions is a recipe for high prices and insecurity."

It is not too late. Prime Minister Turnbull could and should announce an EIS is back on the table, giving hope to industry and consumers alike. Because no one except the Turnbull Government believes that the current national policy vacuum in energy policy is acceptable.

This opinion piece was first published on The Huffington Post Thursday, 5 January 2017