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Opening remarks at the COAG Energy Council

Teleconference

20 March 2020

ANGUS TAYLOR: I welcome Ministers to the 23rd meeting of the COAG Energy Council.

This is certainly a different meeting than we had planned only a few weeks ago.

I thank everyone involved for their flexibility in these times.

Many of us faced a challenging summer. Not the summer we expected, but one that was trying for many of us.

I thank all of those involved in keeping the energy sector stable during that period.

The collaboration that the sector showed during the fires was a credit to all involved. 

And we are now facing a new challenge with COVID-19. 

How we respond to this challenge will be one of the great defining moments in our nation’s history.

National leadership is crucial. As is close cooperation and coordination. We come together in that spirit today.

It is critical that we all work together to keep the energy sector stable so that it can deliver essential services to the Australian community. The Australian people expect no less.

The energy sector is good at responding to disruptions and has well established emergency management plans.

However, COVID-19 brings unprecedented challenges, and governments and industry need to work together to respond effectively.

We are working with the major retailers to develop support measures for customers experiencing difficult circumstances as a result of COVID-19.

While the full impact of COVID-19 is unknown, we expect that there will be many more people in financial hardship, who will struggle to pay their energy bills. Should that happen, Australians must be assured that their elected representatives are doing everything within their power to protect them and their family.

We as a council must be strong on defending the needs of those vulnerable consumers.

This virus will require us to work more closely than ever before.

We must work on a coordinated approach from government and industry focussed on:

  • infection control and workforce management
  • managing supply and ensuring redundancy
  • managing long-term impacts
  • coordinating emergency management powers
  • removing barriers for industry, and
  • helping energy consumers.

We will discuss these issues today.

I am confident that we are well prepared to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 to maintain energy supplies to business and communities.

Today, we will also discuss key measures on reliability and security of Australia’s energy system.

It is important that we continue to progress these measures to ensure the energy system remains stable.

These reforms need to be implemented with a focus on ensuring strong consumer protections and limiting bill impacts. This is particularly crucial in the current environment where many Australians will be facing difficult financial situations.

Today we will consider advice on the reliability review we tasked the Energy Security Board to undertake including recommendations on the measures needed to ensure the immediate reliability and security of the grid.

We will also be discussing the rule change package to action the Integrated System Plan for the National Electricity Market and implementation of renewable energy zone connections.

I thank you all once again for the flexibility you have all shown to make today happen.

ENDS