Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Channel Nine, Today

Karl Stefanovic
energy market, transition to renewables.

STEFANOVIC: Minister good morning to you, nice to have your company this morning. Look, just a week ago, Australian families were at risk of widespread blackouts in the middle of winter. It was near the end of the world. Seven days later, you fixed it. It’s a miracle.

BOWEN: Well, good morning, Karl, that's very kind of you, nice to join you. But we did return to more normal market conditions this morning. That was a deliberate decision. As I said yesterday, we didn't want to keep that situation in place for more than a day longer than necessary. But I'm pleased to say that we switched over at four o'clock this morning, and the system has been running very smoothly since then. We've got good generation in the system this morning. As you said, we had some close calls, Karl, but it's a tribute to everyone involved. I want to thank you AEMO and the regulator and all my State and Territory colleagues, we work really, really closely together to keep the lights on. And I'm very pleased to be able to say we have no blackouts, and no loadshedding. And that's a tribute to many people who work very hard. We're dealing with a system where too much energy left the system over the last decade without enough replacing it, we've got to fix that. That will take a little while to fix. In the meantime, I'm just very pleased we've been able to keep the lights on and keep the system working.

STEFANOVIC: I'm just a little bit confused. But I'm not the smartest guy in the world. What's changed? What's changed in the last day to make it safe now?

BOWEN: Well, we've been moving gradually towards this. We've had, we've been talking to generators about how much power is coming back on. As you know, the biggest problem here has been coal fired power stations, which are very old, in many instances, breaking down and leaving us short. That's been the major cause. But there's been lots of causes, but that's been the big one. They've been being repaired and returning to market. We've had more megawatts returning to the market, we could make the judgment yesterday, AEMO, the market operator made the judgment yesterday with my support that we could start gradually returning, we're being very careful, we're not back to the full market yet. We will return sort of halfway at four o'clock this morning, we're gonna check and see how things go today. And over the course of tonight, and we'll keep monitoring the situation. We remain very vigilant and also the regulator is very clearly holding generators to their legal obligation and responsibility to bid into the market.

STEFANOVIC: What happened, what happened to make it safer today than it was yesterday?

BOWEN: We got more generation back in the system. It's not so much yesterday, compared to today. It's just today compared to last Thursday, when we closed on market. That's the difference. We've had gradual return generation, we've been working very, very hard, again, attributed to AEMO and Daniel Westerman the chief executive who's been working all hours working with a generator, the entire system, so that we could return to this and we've managed to keep the lights on and avoid any load shedding.

STEFANOVIC: But that's no guarantee of this happening again in the future though?

BOWEN: Well, I've been very clear that there remain risks in the system. And of course, if we get a big coal fired power station outage that going to put a huge pressure on. But we're aware of that. We're vigilant to that. And we're on the job. And everybody's working very hard to minimize that risk. But of course, I've said before, we've got a bumpy winter, because we don't have enough electricity generation in the system, not enough renewables, not enough storage of renewables and not enough transmission. 

STEFANOVIC: Okay, so the power is back and guaranteed for the moment. What’s going to happen with Australians bills? Where will those bills returned to normal?

BOWEN: Well, as you know, a couple of weeks ago, the new July 1 prices came out, the old government sat on that prior election had to be released under the new government, the news that energy bills were going up, the old government knew about it, but didn't do anything to get that those figures out before the election, surprise, surprise. So there will be pressure on 1 July on bills. Our job is to get on with what we're elected to do; to get more transmission, more storage and more renewables in the system, because that will reduce power bills.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, when will they return to normal? Do you think?

BOWEN: It’s going to take a while for our policies to work. I think people understand that you don't fix 10 years of neglect in 10 days, but we're getting on with it working very closely with States and territories. We're going to have one national integrated plan to get on with it. States and territories have agreed with us to do that. That's great news. So we're just going to get on with it. We've got a big job to do Karl, a big job ahead of us 


BOWEN: Well, yeah, I mean, we've got to build 10,000 kilometres of transmission wires to get our system up and running. You don't do that in six months. You don't do that in a year. That is going to take a while. But as I said, we've started the work and I look forward to giving you and the viewers updates as we get on with it.

STEFANOVIC: We look forward to that too. But a note to the viewers, get used to the high power prices for at least another year or so. Good on you. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate your time. 

BOWEN: Good idea, Carlos. Thank you.