Crisis meeting on “Putin’s price spike”

Australia is in the midst of an energy crisis, prompting state and Commonwealth energy ministers to call an emergency meeting.

Australian energy ministers will convene for an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the rising cost of electricity, as wholesale electricity and gas prices soar to an ‘unprecedented’ level .

“President Putin’s electricity price spikes” are responsible for what is expected to be a “very expensive winter” caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and a host of domestic issues.

The conflict has led to a global gas shortage, prompting Australia to rely on its aging coal-fired power stations, at least 25% of which are offline due to scheduled or unplanned outages.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the power grid was not “fit for the 21st century” because “nothing had happened for nine years”.

NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said that as long as the war in Ukraine lasts electricity prices will remain high.

“What we can do is get our coal-fired power stations back online so that they provide the bulk of the electricity right now,” he told Channel 7.

Mr Kean said that while the crisis “is unlikely to affect bills in the short term”, it will increase wholesale prices in the long term unless the country’s energy ministers find a solution to make lower electricity prices.

He said Australia needed to accelerate its transition to renewables to keep prices low and products high.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said there was “no easy solution” to all the problems caused by the previous government’s nine years of lackluster energy policy.

“What really caused this problem is that we haven’t had the investment we need in renewable energy, transmission and storage,” he told ABC Radio.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen a 17% reduction in renewable energy investment… We need nine times the utility-scale renewable energy to make the system more stable.

Mr Bowen said Wednesday’s crisis meeting, convened by a broad coalition of leading bodies, was a chance for all states and territories to start working “hand in hand” with the Commonwealth to better plan the transition to renewable energy.

“We are a team… We have to get this transition right,” he said.

Mr Albanese echoed that sentiment, saying updating the network should be a priority, but that included continuing to use coal.

“Coal is part of our mix right now,” he said when asked if he was willing to use coal to offset gas shortages.

“(We) have a plan to ensure that we move to 82% renewable energy by 2030 under the national energy market and a 42% reduction in emissions.

“But we will put the measures in place. We must, as soon as possible, ensure that we correct the transmission.

“It is essential and we will do everything we can to achieve it.”

On Tuesday, many top energy industry bodies called on ministers to work together ‘both on immediate responses to calm the chaos and on longer-term measures to moderate energy prices and reduce emissions by improving supply and increasing demand side efficiency, energy management and fuel switching”.

“A collaborative response between the Commonwealth, States and energy stakeholders is needed as no single actor holds all the power, resources and information to resolve this crisis,” a statement from the group read.

“A phased response is essential as this crisis includes both acute price pain and the likelihood of chronic high prices thereafter.”

National Senator Matt Canavan dismissed the group’s claim that there needed to be faster build-up of large-scale renewables, suggesting coal was still the best way forward.

“Let’s hope that this meeting will end the war on coal… There has been a war on our coal and gas industries for the last few years, that’s why we have high prices,” he told the Nine Network.

His party leader David Littleproud has suggested a way forward is to switch to nuclear power – although it is in decline around the world.

“It’s an emerging technology … I don’t think we should be afraid to have this conversation,” Mr. Littleproud told ABC News.

“Let’s be mature enough as a country to take this path, work constructively and understand the opportunities.”

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