More work needed on power, says minister

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says AGL’s decision to extend the life of NSW and South Australian power stations to shore up electricity reliability over coming summers is a “good short-term announcement”, but more work is needed.

AGL said on Friday the first unit at the coal-fired Liddell plant will close in April 2022, while the remaining three units would stay open until April 2023.

This followed an independent engineering assessment and would “support system reliability throughout the 2022-23 summer months”.

The energy giant had previously indicated the NSW-based power station would close in 2022 after 50 years of operation.

It also told the Australian Energy Market Operator on Friday it was delaying the closure of the first two units at the Torrens A station in SA by 10 months, to September 2020.

Mr Taylor indicated just after the May election the Morrison government would quickly act on electricity reliability, with a new “retailer reliability obligation” coming into force on July 1.

He said the government’s reforms meant Liddell must either be replaced or its life extended, and he would not be afraid to use new powers to get the best results for consumers.

“The government’s position on Liddell is well-known and has not changed,” Mr Taylor told AAP on Friday.

“We remain in constructive dialogue with AGL about this, and this is a good short-term announcement.

“But there is more to be done. We want to see existing coal and gas generation stay in the market, running at full tilt.”

The government is also working on three NSW power projects under its new generation underwriting plan, and has flagged bringing to parliament its “big stick” laws to stamp out energy market misconduct.

Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler said power prices had risen 158 per cent since 2015, while the government had yet to come up with a consistent energy policy.

“In order to avoid increased prices and reliability risks, Angus Taylor needs to take responsibility for his portfolio and convene a COAG Energy Council meeting to deliver a consistent national policy that will support new investment and deliver power price relief for struggling Australian households,” Mr Butler said.

Greens energy spokesman Adam Bandt condemned the move.

“The coal bullies in the government are slowing down the transition to renewables,” he told AAP.

“We’re in record drought, the Arctic is burning and we should be phasing out coal, not forcing it to stay.”

AEMO said it would factor the changes into the 2019 Electricity Statement of Opportunities, due for release this month.

“AEMO notes AGL’s commitment to the secure and reliable supply of generation for the coming summer and will continue to work closely with AGL and other market participants seeking to deliver additional generation to the market in the lead up to Liddell’s staged closure,” a spokeswoman told AAP.

“We appreciate AGL’s transparency on these matters, which affords AEMO and policy makers time to prevent any shortfalls that may occur as a result.”

 

By AAP Aug 2, 2019

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