EXPERT ANALYSIS: What Can Be Done To Reduce WA’s Power Price

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report this week highlighted windfall profiteering in the retail energy sector as a result of no contestable competition in the market.

Recommendations made by the ACCC for the National Energy Market are not fully transferable into WA’s South West Interconnected System.

The comparison being: The National Energy Market supplies over 20 million people with power across the Eastern States, with smaller interconnections bridging the gap. Meanwhile the South West Interconnected System supplies energy to a mere 2 million people.

Energy Researcher, James Eggleston, said the two markets are two very different beasts.

Although some of the recommendations can be transferable over to our market, he said it’s a very different system.

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, left the door open to coal’s inclusion in the potentially changing energy market scheme.

Greens Senator, Jordon Steele-John, believes Turnbull has sold his soul in terms of climate change and renewable energy.

He commented on the present situation where energy policy is driven not by science or an obligation to the next generation, but more how it will pay off in the major parties’ pockets.

“It’s quite disgraceful,”

“What we’re really seeing is a generation of Australian politicians who would rather include fossil fuels and keep taking their money, rather than safeguarding the future of Australia’s young people,” he explained.

Mr Steele-John said money is at the heart of this entire debate; with big mining, fossil fuel and gas companies pouring millions of dollars into political parties, then having monetary control over the policies and initiatives, so they benefit them.

Mr Eggleston said the future is not coal, despite having a big coal industry.

The industry has no future in the electricity sector, so how do we transition to renewable energy in a way that’s reliable, provides secure electricity, keeps prices down, and keeps Australians in jobs… The problem Mr Turnbull is currently facing.

However, the transition to renewable energy is well underway, becoming an ever-increasing part of the market as a cheaper alternative.

Mr Eggleston, said it hasn’t been a decision to get rid of coal explicitly, it’s just a progression due to costly generating factors.

The cost of excavating coal, refining, processing, and generating that power is a costly affair, which then increases with the cost of the infrastructure used to deliver the electricity from hundreds of metres away to residents and business.

Compared with solar panels and a generator you can put on your roof, then pay nothing in terms of delivery costs and have the ability to generate energy cheaper than the big coal power stations.

“That is the renewable energy transition – causing a shift from centralised generation to de-centralised generation in the sector,” Mr Eggleston said.

Mr Steele-John agrees the coal industry is not as sustainable as once hoped.

“What we need to be doing is improving people’s ability to access things that will actually bring down the cost of power, which are those subsidies and support systems for renewable energy,” he commented.

The way the National Energy Market was built, using coal was the most reliable and affordable electricity option at that time.

But the way you build that market today is not by using that same technology.

Experts are calling for WA’s energy market to be opened, creating legitimate competition to drive energy prices down.

But the question at hand is: how will Energy and Finance Minister, Ben Wyatt, regulate an open market, ensuring that competition is moderated.

With one in four Australian households shifting to renewable energy, the focus is now on the Government to implement more sustainable environmental policies.

Mr Eggleston said the Government needs to act quicker in terms of putting new policies forward, despite being inherently difficult with political processes underpinning unwelcomed changes.

“It’s the Government’s responsibility, not only for this generation, but for future generations and this is what this argument is really about…”

“How do we decarbonise our energy supply such that future generations don’t experience some sort of inequity,” he stated.

Mr Steele-John thinks we need firm policy settings, recognition and utilisation of the things that work.

“Because of a combination of fossil fuel money and Australian political cowardice, quite frankly on behalf of both major parties, we simply are not doing them…” he commented.

He said the energy fight is on.

“What we do in these next few years will decide whether or not my generation, or those that come after, will spend a vast majority of their time dealing with a climate disaster.”

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