Australia invokes emergency powers to block coal exports amid energy crisis

Australian authorities have given themselves the power to block coal exports if the resource is needed to ease the country’s crippling energy crisis in the latest move to avoid the risk of blackouts.

Rising coal and gas prices, coupled with outages at aging coal-fired power plants, threw the market into turmoil this week, forcing Australia’s energy market operator to take control of the market from wholesale to ensure a reliable supply of electricity to the eastern states.

The New South Wales government on Friday invoked emergency powers to force miners operating in the state to redirect coal overseas to local generators. The precautionary measure was taken to strengthen energy security on the advice of AEMO.

“We’re just giving ourselves all the leverage we need to give the community confidence that we’re doing everything we can to keep the system running,” said Matt Kean, Minister of Energy and Treasurer of the New – South Wales, the most populous of the country. State.

The energy crisis has highlighted the failure of Australiaone of the world’s largest producers of fossil fuels, to prepare for the transition to renewable energy sources by investing in the modernization of the country’s electricity infrastructure, according to analysts.

“We are in a delicate position. It’s a global story because there’s a shortage of gas and prices are skyrocketing, but for Australia it’s combined with coal-fired power stations going offline,” said Ben Oquist, group chief executive. Australia Institute think tank.

The crisis has highlighted how the inability to prepare for renewable energy becoming a larger part of domestic supply was hitting consumers nationwide in the form of higher bills and potential outages, he added.

The government this week asked consumers in New South Wales, which includes Sydney and the coal-rich Hunter Valley, to conserve energy by turning off lights and using appliances in the evening to avoid the risk of blackouts .

The crisis coincided with unseasonably cold weather, with many consumers forced to use space heaters due to the lack of insulation and central heating in many homes.

The energy supply crisis has put pressure on the Prime Minister Anthony Albanian, who took office less than a month ago and pledged during his election campaign to cut energy bills. He has also pledged to cut carbon emissions further by 2030 than the previous government and to further boost investment in renewable energy.

“What we are paying here is 10 years of delay and refusal. We haven’t had the necessary investment in the energy sector because we haven’t had the investment certainty that businesses need,” he told local media. “Our plan will see some A$52 billion of private sector investment over the next few years in new energy.”

Scott Morrison’s previous government was careful on plans to accelerate the energy transition by bringing forward the closure of coal-fired power plants due to concerns about rising consumer prices and supply.

Morrison also launched a “gas recovery” plan during the pandemic, which provided grants and subsidies for new exploration projects.

Oquist said the former prime minister should have promoted investments in the electricity grid and storage to promote renewable energy. “We were supposed to have a gas recovery, but I think we had a gas disaster,” he said. “Morrison put political muscle into the gas during Covid, but it left Australia in a very vulnerable position.”

Australia is one of the largest gas producers in the world, but the fuel is mainly exported. Albanese said calls for a domestic gas reserve must face increased risk if the industry were to break contracts.

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