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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 141

South Australia: Electricity Prices

Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Since the closure of the Alinta power station in Port Augusta, wholesale electricity prices have more than doubled in South Australia, not only putting significant strain on the householder but having a catastrophic impact on high-consumption heavy industry. Can the minister please inform the House as to what course of action can be taken to address this issue?

The SPEAKER: Just before I call the minister, earlier in question time I asked him to cease interjecting. That was my error; it was the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science.

Mr FRYDENBERG (KooyongMinister for the Environment and Energy) (14:51): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the member for Grey for his question, and note his strong commitment to getting lower electricity prices for the people of his electorate, whether they are businesses or households.

The member for Grey is right to say that electricity prices have been on the rise in South Australia. In fact, in one day in the month of July, the price of electricity per megawatt-hour—the wholesale price—went from $500 an hour to $14,000 an hour. Now, there were actually a number of reasons for that increase. There was an upgrade to the Heywood interconnector. The fact is that there was also a spike in gas prices. There was also high demand due to a cold snap in both South Australia and Victoria. It was also because South Australia has a high supply of intermittent energy, with more than 40 per cent of its energy coming from wind and solar. It was against that backdrop that we as the COAG energy ministers met recently and agreed on a range of important economic reforms, particularly to boost liquidity and transparency in domestic gas markets.

We also agreed to rein in network costs, which include up to 50 per cent of the household bill, by undertaking a review of the limited merits review process as well as trying to reduce the red tape in terms of interconnectors between states. But we have to point out that electricity prices went up 101 per cent under those opposite—101 per cent in the six years that they were in government and on their own policy. On their own policy, it is modelled to increase by 78 per cent.

Those opposite have a policy to go to 50 per cent renewables and to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, but it is a bit too generous to call it a policy, because this is what the member for Hunter, a fellow cabinet minister, said last year on the Bolt report. He was asked about Labor's climate change policy and he said:

No, no, hang on a minute, Andrew. It's not a policy. It's an announcement of an aspiration.

He then added:

You have to have goals in life.

Then the question came to the member for Hunter: how much will your policies on climate change cost? This is the member for Hunter: 'Well, no-one knows. That is the truth of it.' Mr Speaker—no-one knows.

That is cold comfort for the single mother with three children in Port Augusta. That is cold comfort for the cement maker in Port Adelaide. Mr Speaker, you would have thought that those opposite would have learnt after their carbon tax, their cash for clunkers, their citizens assembly. Only the coalition can be trusted to get down electricity prices while transitioning to a lower emissions future.