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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 539

Electricity Infrastructure

Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (14:40): My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. I refer to the statement released today by the operator of the Pelican Point power station, which reads:

The second unit … at Pelican Point is not able to provide a market response under the current rules of the … NEM unless directed by the market operator.

Why did the federal regulator which reports to this minister force blackouts on South Australian households and business instead of directing Pelican Point to switch on the second unit?

Mr FRYDENBERG (KooyongMinister for the Environment and Energy) (14:40): This is literally unbelievable. You have had successive blackouts in South Australia. You have had written reports from the Australian Energy Market Operator and the Australian Energy Market Commission saying that the system's strength is a weakened as you increase a reliance on intermittent sources of power. The Australian Energy Market Operator—

Mr Keogh interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Burt is warned!

Mr FRYDENBERG: disputes the version of events that the Labor Party are starting to peddle. When you play a bad game, you do not blame the operator. This is absolutely pathetic. There are hundreds of thousands of workers in South Australia in the manufacturing sector. Their jobs have now been put at risk as a result of higher electricity prices—

Mr Keogh interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Burt will leave under 94(a).

The member for Burt then left the chamber.

Mr FRYDENBERG: Just last week, Senator Ruston and I visited a seafood business in South Australia that has seen its electricity prices go up by 50 per cent. Do you know whose electorate that is in? It is the member for Port Adelaide's electorate. You have no message of support for them because you have a 50 per cent renewable energy target federally.

The SPEAKER: I always allow preambles, but we are now into the second minute. The question, whilst it was long, was very specific in a number of regards. As the minister knows, he will need to address those remarks or discontinue with his preamble and wind up his answer.

Mr FRYDENBERG: The Energy Market Operator disputes this version of events that the Labor Party are putting forward. Pelican Point could have come on with the high demand and the high prices. The issue in South Australia was not Pelican Point. The issue in South Australia was the low supply from wind power. This is all about creating a little distraction here, so we do not see what is going on here. To use the words of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Penny Wong, 'your policy is a smokescreen'. This is a smokescreen. The reality is wind power only provided to 2½ per cent of supply in South Australia yesterday. The interconnector, ironically providing brown coal fired power from Victoria into South Australia, was at maximum capacity. The issue here is that wind was so low in South Australia and demand was high because of the temperatures that the system could not cope. If South Australia was like other states, you would not have had this problem and you are only compounding this problem with your 50 per cent renewable energy target, which is putting ideology ahead of jobs.

Mr Butler: I seek leave to table the media statement from ENGIE that confirms that this minister and the operator sat on their hands last night.

The SPEAKER: Is leave granted? Leave is not granted.