15 November 2012 — The Energy Efficiency Council has called on the Federal Government to take urgent action to further reform the electricity market after last week’s release of the Government’s Energy White Paper.

Council chief executive officer Rob Murray-Leach said the Government needed to take more action on networks, energy efficiency and consumer protection to deliver affordable energy to homes and businesses and consult much more extensively with consumer, welfare and business groups on time-of-use pricing.

“The Energy White Paper is a major step on the road to fixing our energy markets and keeping energy affordable,” he said.

“(Energy Minister) Martin Ferguson is right to call for action to tackle peak demand and boost energy efficiency, but he needs to go further to guarantee affordable energy for homes and businesses.

“In addition to consulting more deeply with consumer, welfare and business groups on time-of-use pricing, the Government needs to take a serious look at a National Energy Saving Initiative and targets for network companies to reduce expenditure on poles and wires.

“The Energy Efficiency Council calls on all governments to work together at COAG to deliver affordable energy. The electorate wants action on energy prices, and the governments that don’t engage on serious reform will pay at the ballot box.”

The White Paper’s overview says that Australia’s energy sector “has entered a period of unprecedented transformation and expansion”.

“These changes are part of the broader restructuring of the Australian economy as we move further into the Asian century and transition to a clean energy economy. They bring opportunities for new business and wealth creation, as well as challenges and risks,” the white paper says.

“Australia has a generally positive energy security outlook. This will increasingly be shaped by the strength of future investment, the cost of energy and our ongoing response to climate change.

“Australia’s abundant reserves of energy resources underpin our energy security, but maintaining a high level of security also depends on our integration into diversified supply chains, access to well-functioning global energy markets and continued effective responses to market and non-market risks.

“Rising costs of production, the need to replace ageing infrastructure and the development of clean sources of energy mean that Australia will face continued pressure on energy prices. We must position ourselves well to retain our hard-won competitive advantage in reliable and competitively priced energy.

“Australian governments must collectively undertake further market, regulatory and institutional reforms to ensure the efficient supply of energy and responsiveness of demand. Greater competition will stimulate business innovation to offer consumers better services, including a suite of information and ‘smart’ tools to help them control their energy use and keep costs down.”

The White Paper says gas markets must be further developed along with improving the ability to secure the next wave of investment in our energy resources.

“The sustainable development and use of energy, particularly to improve our productivity and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, is paramount in our long-term economic and environmental future.”

Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said the Energy White Paper was long-awaited but “sadly the focus is still way too much on a dash for gas”.

“Now what that means is Australia’s farmland, its aquifers, communities already outraged by the onrush of coal seam gas are going to see this as yet more taking away of their rights to facilitate the fossil fuel industry,” she said.

Ms Milne said “some of the good things” included better connection for distributed energy and a fair price for renewable energy.

“All of the opportunities in the future are around the new technologies, the innovation that’s going to come from renewable energy, energy efficiency, improved grids and the like, distributed energy coming on at scale, battery technology is making enormous breakthroughs.

“That’s where the future is, not in saying let’s rush to dig up as much coal and gas as we can while the dinosaur kicks.”