Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King says coal-fired power plants need to be restarted to relieve the energy crisis on the east coast.
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An urgent meeting of Commonwealth, State and Territory energy ministers will be convened on Wednesday to discuss the dire situation, as East Coast gas demand and prices soar.
The new federal government described the difficult situation as the result of a “perfect storm”, as the increase in international demand for Australian gas landed as a severe cold spell spread across much of the country. countries, and unplanned outages of coal-fired power plants have had an impact on electricity at large. market.
Ms King has been working on the phones to try to get Australian gas producers to pump more supply into the system, but noted their efforts were limited due to existing pipelines running at capacity and a lack of infrastructure gas transportation across the country.
She said the short-term solution to the crisis lay in Australia’s aging coal-fired power generation fleet – some of which had suffered maintenance delays.
“What we really need to do is get coal-fired power plants back online, because that’s the missing piece of the puzzle right now,” Ms King told the ABC.
Ms King rejected suggestions that the federal government may need to support the recommissioning of coal-fired power plants.
“To be honest, it’s the coal companies themselves and the power plant operators who have to get those power plants back online,” she said.
“That’s 30% of power capacity that’s taken out of the mix due to unforeseen circumstances in many ways – and some of those are planned outages as well.
“No matter how much money anyone is investing right now, we just need the operators to get going to fix their factories now.”
Labor has blamed the current crisis on the coalition, accusing the former government of botched energy policy by failing to boost investment during its nine years in office.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the Coalition “has spent the better part of a decade battling energy, rather than building resilience and certainty in the system.”
Former energy minister Angus Taylor rejected that suggestion.
“We have seen record levels of investment in solar home power and renewables more generally – the highest levels of solar home power in the world – one of the highest investment rates per capita in renewable energy in the world,” he told the ABC.
“But that has to go hand in hand with dispatchability – that’s why gas is crucial.
“It is crucial now, with very strong inflationary pressures, that the new government works closely with gas producers to balance the network … that there is careful investment in transmission.”
East coast gas reservation would be ‘hard to reverse’
Ms King said all options were on the table when it came to discussing longer-term solutions to the gas crisis, including a possible gas reservation policy.
This would ensure that Australian gas producers had to ensure that some of their supplies were allocated solely to the domestic market, rather than to lucrative exports.
The Western Australian government has such a policy in place, with 15% of gas produced in the state earmarked for local consumption.
The reservation policy has spared WA from soaring gas prices, but Ms King argued it would be difficult to implement on the east coast.
“Western Australia’s gas reservation policy was a very big political struggle to bring in, it was very difficult for the state Labor government at the time, and a lot of people lost a lot of skin politics in this fight,” she said.
“It was also part of the design of the export industry – so it came in at the same time and was also part of the investment decisions of international investors in the WA gas production system.
Coalition attacks government over negotiations with gas companies
On Sunday, new Nationals leader David Littleproud questioned the government’s ability to work with the nation’s biggest gas companies to resolve the crisis, suggesting Mr Taylor would have had a better chance of getting them to cooperate.
“It’s really nice of David Littleproud to put me down like that, but I guess that’s what the old-school Nationals are about when it comes to women and women in power,” replied Mrs. King today.
“I was actually quite offended by it.
“I actually was able to pick up the phone and have these discussions and maybe I’m not taking the heavy-handed approach of…Angus Taylor – I’d rather ask these people, these leaders of our economy, how they can help.”
New Shadow Energy Minister Ted O’Brien also took aim at Energy Minister Chris Bowen, saying he was leaving the crisis to be solved by others.
“Now Chris Bowen, he spent years demonizing the gas industry, when we as a government introduced measures to introduce more gas safety, to help with the transition,” Mr O’ said. Brien.
“He was the first to come out of the blocks to criticize it, in his own words, calling it a fraud.
“It’s no wonder Anthony Albanese, as the new prime minister, isn’t asking his new energy minister to take care of this with the gas producers – Madeleine King has to.”
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