Doorstop interview

Doorstop interview
Energy prices, gas supply, coal-fired power

MADELEINE KING: The CEOs have been really helpful, really construction, constructive. Sorry. And as we've seen over the weekend, there have been announcements from Beach and Santos and also Shell that more gas will be going into the Southern market.

REPORTER: But has it helped but any downward pressure on prices yet?

MADELEINE KING: Well, what will help put downward pressure on prices is for the existing coal fired power stations to come back online as 30% loss of supply in that system, and it will be important for that to be rebooted, so to speak. In the meantime, the gas companies are doing all they can to get gas into the Southern market.

REPORTER: How soon are we going to see those coal fire power stations back online?

MADELEINE KING: Well, I'm not absolutely certain of that, but we'll be talking to the industry today and over coming days to see what progress has been made.

REPORTER: Have they asked the government for anything, any financial support? Is anything on the table?

MADELEINE KING: No. Some of these are planned outages. They've just all come at once. And on the back of COVID restrictions over a couple of years where there's been staffing shortages, current COVID related staffing shortages. So it's a perfect storm of events that have caused this. Obviously, coming in the cold weather snap is not a good thing, and also driving up the prices for manufacturers is wholly negative. We will wait as a government for the AEMO regulations to take their course, and it does appear that that is happening. But equally, we really need the power that Victoria and New South Wales have depended on for a number of years just to kick back in.

REPORTER: Some of the price increases that manufacturers are reporting are just unreal, like $100,000 a day for an increase in their power bills. What do you say to them and how soon is relief coming? Is the government willing to offer any …

MADELEINE KING: Yeah, I mean, I heard those reports myself this morning, and that's devastating for manufacturers. And I know many manufacturers are also using innovative practices, changing their days of operations so that they can work when the prices are lower. And I respect their innovative practices. We hope these prices will come down soon, and we're working towards that. Minister Bowen is meeting with all the energy Ministers, I believe, tomorrow, and we'll continue those talks to make sure these prices come down so that people can access, and manufacturers can access affordable power.

REPORTER: Is there any relief in the short term that people can expect, or is it sort of going to still be a bit of a bumpy ride through winter?

MADELEINE KING: I'm afraid to say it will be a bumpy ride. I'm not going to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. After nine years of inaction in climate and energy policy, this is what the nation is left with. So there's a lot of factors involved and there's no point going on in the blame game, but it must be recognised where this failure, part of this failure has come from. In the meantime, Minister Bowen and myself are getting down to work to try and relieve that pressure in the short term and we will look to policies in the medium to long term as well to make sure we don't see repeated this next winter.

REPORTER: The pain is already being felt by businesses is that expected to hit households just as hard.

MADELEINE KING: We hope not because we do have the AMEO regulations with the price caps and we also hope that the coal (power) stations come back online as soon as possible.