Morrison government gets out the big stick on energy

“This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared” – Scott Morrison, the Australian parliament in 2017.

One of the Coalition’s big policy platforms in the recent election was energy reliability and price. “Electricity Bill” was a slogan that struck at the heart of Labor’s Big Green plans regarding renewable energy and electric cars. On the contrary, the Coalition – led by a prime minister who once brought a lump of coal into parliament – campaigned heavily on lowering electricity bills and clearing the way for the Carmichael coal mine.

The re-elected Coalition is moving fast on the first of the two.

Energy companies will be ­compelled to cut wholesale ­prices and guarantee ­supply as the re-elected Morrison government prepares to revive the “big stick” divestment laws it was forced to shelve this year.

Left-wing governments in states like Victoria and South Australia have nailed their green colours to their stumps, presiding over coal-fired power station shutdowns and big-noting ‘green’ initiatives. But the energy reliability chickens quickly came home to roost, with a state-wide blackout in SA and widespread shortages on the hottest days of the last summer in Victoria.

The Coalition’s big stick is being waved firmly at both.

State governments will also face mounting pressure to fast-track approvals for new ­generation projects underwritten by the federal government and open up more gas supply.

In an interview with The Australian, Energy Minister Angus Taylor revealed the “big stick laws”, which energy companies had labelled draconian, would be a priority when parliament returned, expected to be the first week of July…He said failure by state governments to act on power supply would risk “dire ­consequences”, including a new exodus of manufacturing ­operations and the loss of industrial jobs […]

The proposed Treasury Laws Amendment (Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct) Bill 2018, which is opposed by Labor and the Greens, would give the government unprecedented powers to seek divestment of generation ­assets as a last resort.

Naturally, big energy companies are not happy campers.

Energy chiefs, meeting yesterday in Brisbane at an annual oil and gas conference, repeated their concerns about the “big stick” laws. Origin chief executive Frank Calabria said: “If it’s ­designed to break up energy ­companies, I don’t think that’s the way to go about achieving lower prices and better outcomes for customers. I don’t feel it serves customers well.”

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Australia is awash with energy resources. It’s an astonishing failure of governance that Australians are paying through the nose for unreliable supply, while the bulk of natural gas is shipped offshore and green zealots do everything in their power to shut down resources industries.

Mr Taylor issued a warning to recalcitrant state governments that failure to increase gas and dispatchable electricity supply was a critical issue.

He said he would be seeking support from state governments to fast-track approvals for the construction of new generation, including coal…“I will be also pointing out that failure to get more supply of electricity and gas is likely to be dire in the coming years,” he said. “If a state refuses to put more gas supply and dispatchable electricity into the market, then they need to wear the accountability with their constituencies and businesses.

theaustralian


The wealthy greens of inner Melbourne and Sydney will be furious, but then, they can afford to fret about an imaginary “climate emergency”. Most Australians have their minds – and votes – focused on rather more real-world concerns. If the government’s new rules successfully restore reliable supply and put an end to spiralling household energy costs, it will be a massive win for both Scott Morrison and for ordinary Australians.

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