THE Victorian Liberals and energy company AGL teamed up last week to host an energy forum in Kernot on the future of renewables and electricity prices.
Held at the Kernot Hall on Friday, there was discussion on the future of energy sources and AGL’s shift to renewables, as well as the company’s promise to get out of coal by 2050.
The forum was organised by Bass MP Brian Paynter after he heard concerns in the area about rising electricity bills.
Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources David Southwick, AGL representatives and Patrick Gibbons from the Minerals Council attended the panel discussion.
AGL senior manager Jasmine Doak explained her role on a project which is looking at importing gas from overseas, because Australia is exporting too much gas.
It’s the result of multi-million dollar contracts gas producers have signed with overseas suppliers.
Ms Doak said AGL can’t buy enough gas for their customers, so they’re looking at buying “cheap gas” overseas and bringing it to Victoria.
“From time to time, a tanker would come in with a cargo of gas, load in onto our unit and then off it goes,” she told the crowd of about 30 people.
“There’s a pipeline that goes from that ship to about Pakenham and allows us to use that gas in Victoria,” she said, adding that AGL is still conducting a feasibility studies and looking at environmental and safety concerns.
AGL senior manager David Spree said there was a good balance between supply and demand in the energy industry up until 2015, when power stations built in the 1950s were reaching the end of their lives.
“As farmers would know, you can have a tractor that’s 70 years old but it’s not gonna be as good as the next 2017 model and you can’t keep replacing the parts,” he said.
“For us, we know we’re getting out of coal. But we need to do it in a sustainable and orderly way.
“It makes sense on an emissions front and it’s coming down on price.”
Minerals Council director of climate change, environment and energy Patrick Gibbons also spoke at the forum.
He said over the last decade, Australia has gone from having one of the lowest energy costs to one of the highest.
“We have if not the best energy resources, fossil fuels, uranium, something we view that has driven the economy. We’re now losing that advantage,” he said.
“We need to have a very hard think around that we need this competitive advantage and we need serious discussion over reducing energy costs rather than minimising cost increases.”
He questioned what would happen to power bills when the next baseload plant, similar to Hazelwood, closes.
“It’s not enough to simply have renewable energy unless you’re planning on backing that up.
“Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine and the wind’s not always there when we need it.”
Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources David Southwick also spoke at the forum and supported a national renewable energy target, rather than each state making their own target.
“We need to be able to turn the lights on. We’ve got to be sustainable,” he said.
“I love innovation, I love disruption and new ideas.”
He stressed the importance of having a timeline of when power stations were going to close, so it gives the market time to prepare.
He believes if they give a cut-off date and then close it earlier, the company should be penalised.