The Finkel review and power: Big changes needed

The Finkel review and power: Big changes needed

Published 24 June 2017, The Courier, Ballarat

Can the Finkel review finally break the deadlock on energy policy in Australia after a decade of bickering and inaction?

There is no more pressing issue currently in Australian politics than energy. Our Prime Minister has even described our current energy predicament as a crisis. It is a crisis that impacts us all.

Our current antiquated system cannot cope with the disruption which has resulted from advances in technology and changes in our consumption patterns. Our demand for energy outstrips current supply. Our energy prices have dramatically increased in the past 12 months and, in fact, have risen 140% since 2004. We have gone from one of the lowest energy cost countries in the OECD to amongst the highest. It’s hurting households, it’s hurting our businesses, and  it’s hurting Australia and our economy. How have we got ourselves into this mess? Over the past decade there has been a paralysis of the energy sector due to lack of policy.

There is no doubt that the energy debate is an extremely divisive and difficult one and we recognise that there is no silver bullet or quick fix. In fact, energy policy in Australia is so highly divisive that over the past decade it has destroyed the careers of two prime ministers and one opposition leader.

Unveiling a blueprint for Australia’s energy future, Australia's chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, has found himself in the middle of this political typhoon around energy.

The Finkel Review provides a comprehensive suite of carefully considered measures to bring the national electricity market into the 21st century. Having undergone significant economic modelling, extensive consultation and a review of international best practice, it provides a solid platform for the optimal operation of the electricity system in Australia.

The recommendations contained within the review provide politicians with the tools and information required to arrive at a critical bipartisan approach to meet our energy security and affordability – and low emissions targets. It also provides the tools and mechanisms to allow for policy certainty for the urgent and significant investment by industry now and into the future.

The Finkel Review takes the politics out of the energy debate and provides a focus on four key issues – that is the supply of affordable, reliable, secure and low emissions energy whilst meeting our International obligation on climate change. The cries for change are loud. The pain of rising electricity prices has been heard. We need long-term energy policy to allow for energy transition in an orderly manner and to provide a continuous trajectory towards zero emissions. Business as usual is not an option.

We have a window of opportunity to get this right. The consequences of failure on this issue cannot be fathomed. To be blunt, we will have a tsunami of job losses, business will move offshore due to grid instability, blackouts will be a regular occurrence and we will not see private investment into our electricity infrastructure. As so eloquently put by Jack Welch of GE : “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, then the end is near.” Today the rate of change has eclipsed our energy sector. It is no longer a topic for discussion; it is a time for action. Committee for Ballarat commends the work undertaken by the chief scientist in providing a coherent and unified series of recommendations for energy market reforms, which have been built on hard, cold logic. We urge urgent bilateral leadership in adopting these recommendations.

Melanie Robertson
CEO, Committee for Ballarat