Energy ministers gather for crisis meeting as coal and gas shortages lead to electricity price rise

Australia’s energy ministers are set to meet on Wednesday for an emergency meeting to discuss the rising cost of electricity as wholesale electricity and gas prices rise to “unprecedented” levels.

Energy ministers gather for crisis meeting as coal and gas shortages lead to electricity price rise

“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 offline due to planned or unplanned outages.

Camera IconA, a perfect storm of conditions, has led to an ‘unprecedented’ rise in energy prices. NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw Credit: News Corp Australia

NSW Energy Secretary Matt Kean said that as long as the war in Ukraine continues, power prices will remain high.

“What we can do is get our coal-fired power plants back online, so they’re supplying most of the electricity right now,” he told Channel 7.

Mr. Kean said that while the crisis “shouldn’t lead to bills in the short term”, it will raise wholesale prices in the long run unless the country’s energy ministers find a solution to cut power prices.

He said Australia needed to ramp up its transition to renewables to keep prices low and products high.

Camera Icon Energy Minister Chris Bowen says there is no ‘easy fix’ to the problems left behind by the former government. NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Energy Secretary Chris Bowen said there was “no easy solution” to solve all the problems caused by the former government’s nine-year lack of energy policies.

“What 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 stabilize the system.”

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.

Camera icons gas shortage caused by the Russian war in Ukraine is already starting to burn a hole in the pockets of Australian households. NCA NewsWire/Brenton Edwards Credit: News Corp Australia

On Tuesday, numerous top energy industry bodies called on ministers to work together “on immediate responses to calm the chaos and on longer-term measures to moderate energy prices and reduce emissions by improving supply and demand-side efficiency, energy management, and fuel switching”.

“A concerted response between the commonwealth, states, and energy stakeholders is needed because no single player has all the powers, resources, and information to resolve this crisis,” the group said.

“A phased response is essential as this crisis encompasses both acute price pain and the potential for chronic high prices afterward.”

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan rejected the group’s claim that a faster build-up of large-scale renewables was needed, suggesting that coal was still the best way forward.

“Let’s hope this meeting ends the war on coal…There has been a war against our coal and gas industry recently, which is why we have the high prices,” he told the Nine Network.

His party leader David Littleproud has suggested a step forward would be to switch to nuclear power, despite this 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.

“As a country, let’s be mature enough to go down this road, work constructively and understand the opportunities.”

Lori J. Kile
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