Interview - Sunrise

David Koch
Minister Bowen discusses the Energy Ministers' meeting and the energy market

DAVID KOCH: The Energy Ministers from around the country have held urgent talks to address rising costs and supply issues. While the Federal Government admits there's no silver bullet, ministers have agreed on an action plan. It includes urgently developing a way to deal with high demand to improve reliability, giving regulators the power to procure and store gas and working towards a national renewable transition plan. But it's unlikely the plan will reduce prices any time soon.  

Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen joins us now. Minister, gee it's a big issue and it's a long term issue, isn't it?  So no instant price relief?  

CHRIS BOWEN: Good morning, Kochie. Yeah, it's a big issue and this has been a decade in the making.  We haven't had enough planning, enough investment in renewables, in transition, in storage, so we've got a lot of catching up to do very quickly.  

But yesterday the state and territory Energy Ministers with me, and that's Labor, Liberal and Green, all three parties represented, came together very cooperatively, working with me, working across the board with a plan, about 11 points, some of which apply pretty quickly, some of which take a lot longer, but all of which help us navigate this crisis and avoid crises like this into the future.  

DAVID KOCH: A couple of interesting ones I focused on. Number one, increasing storage capacity.  So you'll keep a strategic supply, will you, a bit like what the Americans do in times of shortfall to balance out pricing?  

CHRIS BOWEN: Yeah, yeah, very much like that, Kochie. So AEMO, who runs our energy markets, at the moment doesn't have any powers to buy or store gas so we authorised them to go forward and buy some gas and store it so that if we face the sort of crisis we faced last week we wouldn't be, you know, on the phone to gas companies asking them to increase supply, we could just have AEMO, who works for all of us across the country, buying gas and distributing it around Australia.  

DAVID KOCH: Okay. And also, we've got to get those coal fired gas plants up and running for the time being. Will that put back the transition to renewables?  

CHRIS BOWEN: No, and in fact that transition's even more important now, Kochie, the sorts of things we need to do to invest in transmission and storage in particular are even more important. That's why we're in this mess. But there's short term and there's long term issues.  

A lot of people have called this a gas crisis and I understand why people might say this, but actually this has been more of a coal crisis. It's been more driven by our coal fired power stations which are getting very old, having outages, we've had floods in coal mines. That's really what's driven this crisis.  

Gas is part of the solution and as is, as I said, the transition, and we had a good plan yesterday to really have a super charged national plan coordinated to avoid these crises into the future. But in the short term, state ministers are doing a great job, because a lot of these are state railway lines and indeed state-owned coal fired power stations, to try and get a lot of that capacity back on the market quickly.  

DAVID KOCH: And what's this plan of bring more gas from WA, what – are you going to build a big pipe to the east?  

CHRIS BOWEN: No, no. I mean – no, no, what we're talking about there is, as I said before, storing more gas.  

DAVID KOCH: Right.  

CHRIS BOWEN: But there's no – there's not going to be any sort of particular, we didn't make any decisions about any particular pipelines or anything like that. But what we did say is look, we've got – as you know, Kochie, there's this thing called the ISP. 


CHRIS BOWEN: Which runs, which basically is a national plan for transmission lines of electricity. I want to take that and make that an integrated plan about all the sorts of energy we need, including hydrogen, going forward, to get this plan right, to get the transmission right, because it hasn't been gotten right for the last nine years.  

DAVID KOCH: Yep, if you bring down prices you'll have us all cheering. Chris Bowen, appreciate your time, thanks.  

CHRIS BOWEN: Always a pleasure, Kochie.  

DAVID KOCH: Here's Nat.