Interview with David Koch, Sunrise, Seven

Energy bills, renewable energy

DAVID KOCH: Here's good news for consumers this morning. The Government is cracking down on gas and electricity companies and it could save you hundreds on your bills. From July, new rules will stop energy retailers from excessively penalising people who sign up to discount offers then miss the strict payment deadlines. It is estimated residential customers who've failed to meet conditions are being penalised up to $185 a year. Small businesses getting stung up to $845 extra a year. South Australia is the most excessive. Energy Minister Angus Taylor joins me from Canberra. Minister, thanks for your time.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Kochie.

DAVID KOCH: How many people will benefit from these new rules?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well everyone who ever pays late can benefit from the rules, and of course many pay late. Look, what will happen from the first of July there will be a new rule in place and it'll crack down on these dodgy late payment penalties that we've seen from some of the energy companies. You know, and we've customers being hit by as much as 40 per cent for just paying a couple of hours late, Kochie.


ANGUS TAYLOR: So very severe penalties that have- that have occurred in the past - this will see the end of it. A hundred and eighty-five dollars for households, as you've seen. Up to $1000 for small businesses.


ANGUS TAYLOR: And the penalties will be steep - if the big energy companies do the wrong thing the penalties will be up to $100,000. And the regulator will be looking at this very closely.

DAVID KOCH: Energy bills used to be so simple, didn't they? Now, they're as complex as your mobile phone bill with all these different plans and everything. Is that the issue? That energy companies are using that complexity to really sneakily get more money out of us?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well that has been an issue, there's no question about it. And that's why we've brought in in recent times what's called the reference price which is a very simple price that takes a standard bill and says this bill will cost you $1,200 or whatever the number is for the next year given typical usage. And it makes it much easier now for customers to compare. Now, this rule change is all again about making it easier for customers. You know, we don't want to spend all day thinking about our energy bills - we just want to know that we're not getting ripped off.

DAVID KOCH: Yep. While we've got you, the Clean Energy Regulator predicts strong investment in wind and solar power this year beyond the Government's Renewable Energy Target, but our grids and transmission infrastructure need upgrading to support more renewables. Is that something you'll be working on and focusing on?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Yeah, absolutely. Look, we saw $9 billion of investment in renewables last year - we'll see similar amounts in 2020 - and there's no doubt there needs to be upgrades of transmission to manage this. There also needs to be storage and backup because when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow you've got to have power for industry, for small businesses and for households. So we've put in place $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund which is about addressing that exact issue that you raise. It's going to be a very strong focus and it is a very strong focus for the Government, and agencies like the CEFC right now.

DAVID KOCH: Yeah, and having batteries like they use in South Australia to store it, it's a great idea. Minister, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Kochie.