Opposing views seldom win you many friends. Just ask Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The Prime Minister has received increasing pressure from both his colleagues and opponents for a national inquiry into high power prices and profiteering.
Malcolm Turnbull has taken a hard stance backing the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), reiterating the point that ‘we’ve turned the corner on electricity prices’.
The NEG faces the dilemma of balancing reliability, security and affordability. In other words, making sure there is enough energy, that it is getting to consumers, and at a price they can afford.
Obviously, reducing power prices is not the easiest problem to solve.
The Prime Minister believes ‘The NEG will provide a level playing-field, technology agnostic, certain environment for people to invest and deliver lower cost for generation over time.’
Malcolm Turnbull is facing the predicament of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’.
That’s part of the job description when you become the Prime Minister of Australia. No one said it was going to be easy, and Mr. Turnbull is well aware of that.
A source from the Turnbull government advised it was not likely to consider a royal commission as it has already made efforts to combat the high prices of energy with the NEG, in addition to the prices inquiry by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission that will be released this week.
Mr. Turnbull announced that, ‘It will be a very, very illuminating report.’
I take his word on it.
Turnbull is determined to lower energy prices
When the Prime Minister of the country tells the public that ‘there’s only one thing that matters: lower prices. Lower prices. Everything should be a means to that end,’ you know he’s serious.
That’s not to say that errors in judgments cannot be made. Look at the AMP Scandal that only happened a few months ago.
The calls for a royal commission on power prices are not unwarranted. Prices of electricity have continued to grow for households and businesses.
‘It’s time to get to the bottom of why power prices are going up, which is (because) we’re taking an essential service and treating it like a stock market,’ Greens energy spokesman Adam Brandt stated.
Environmental groups and also the states of Victoria and South Australia are concerned with the reliance of coal-fired generation as the building block of the east coast’s energy network.
These are both valid concerns. However power prices are a complicated matter that cannot be resolved without planning. Blindly attacking coal, while it is still so essential to Australia’s electricity infrastructure, won’t help Australians struggling with already too-high prices.
Even if it were possible, eliminating coal-fired power plants within Australia wouldn’t have the impact on emissions that some believe. Australia’s electricity use is a drop in the ocean compared to countries like China and India, both of which have and continue to use massive amounts of coal as they industrialise and modernise their nations. Coal is also a massive component of Australia’s exports, one that our economy would struggle to survive without.
Rushing to eliminate Australian coal power plants would do little to reverse climate change. But it would apply massive upward pressure on the price we pay for electricity.
The NEG had been put in place to address this complex issue. And, that’s what it will do. Leading to legislation that will make power prices more affordable and reliable for all of us who use it.
By Andre Abeyratne