NSW Labor leader Chris Minns has risked a serious rift within his party by pointing to the possibility of buying back Australia’s largest coal-fired power station in a bid to bolster the state’s energy supply and cut electricity bills.
The Australian Energy Market Operator warned last week that the east coast could face progressive blackouts from renewable energy generation and gas that is unlikely to keep up with demand for years to come.
Despite the looming threat of the lights going out, coupled with rising retail energy costs, there has been great reluctance from governments to put money into the fossil fuel industry – fearing backlash from environmentally conscious voters.
But Mr Minns appears to be positioning Labor for a major backslide in energy policy ahead of the March 25 election.
The opposition leader said a government he heads would like to take control of the Eraring power station in Lake Macquarie, which is scheduled to close in 2025, seven years ahead of schedule.
“I’m not going to run out of power in NSW, and I’m not going to rule out[buying Eraring],” he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
“It could be a negotiation between the government and a private company and I acknowledge I’m bringing that out before the election.”
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns (pictured left with his wife Anna) has risked a serious split with his party by flagging the possibility of buying back Eraring’s coal power station if he wins the state election
Mr Minns said Eraring supplies 25 per cent of NSW’s electricity needs.
“If it’s taken offline and there’s not the reinforcing power there, we could have huge deficits,” he said.
When owner Origin Energy announced last year it would close in 2025, NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said he was disappointed by the decision.
He promised the state would build what he described as the “largest battery in the southern hemisphere” to make up for lost power production.
But after selling the plant in 2013, the coalition then tried to buy it back in 2021 for nearly five times the sale price.
“This plant was sold for $50 million, Matt Kean tried to buy it back for $240 million,” said Mr. Minns.
“If you sell critical infrastructure that the state needs, it undermines the industry, the economy and the fiscal position in the long run.”
Eraring power station (pictured) is due to close in 2025, but NSW Labor leader Chris Minns is not ruling out the state buying it back to keep it open
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns (pictured on 2GB) said: ‘If you sell critical infrastructure that the state needs, it undermines the industry, the economy and the budgetary position in the long run’
ENERGY AUSTRALIA PRICE RISES ON MARCH 1, 2023
• 10.2 percent or $221 per year in the ACT
• 12.4 percent or $276 per year in NSW
• 14.1 percent or $301 per year in QLD
• 10.9 percent or $252 in SA
SMALL TO MEDIUM BUSINESS:
• 9.2 percent or $604 per year in the ACT
• 9.7 percent or $552 per year in NSW
• 12.5 percent or $641 per year in QLD
• 9.7 percent or $516 per year in SA.
The Labor leader’s comments came after Mr Kean said the coalition, if re-elected, could step in to keep Eraring open beyond 2025 to reduce shortages and rising prices.
But as Labor shifted to a more pro-carbon view of power supply, the Liberals swung the other way and Mr Kean walked away from what he had said hours earlier.
Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet, whose Liberal party faces strong challenges from eco-friendly Teal candidates in several seats, said intervening to extend Eraring’s life was “not part of our plans.”
“We have an energy roadmap that delivers $32 billion in private sector investment to ensure we have a reliable and clean energy future over the long term. That’s our plan,’ he said.
The Prime Minister added that he and Mr Kean were ‘entirely on the same page’ about the future of the plant.
Mr Minns told Fordham that Australia’s energy market manager – the national regulator – “released a report last week saying we should be concerned about supply shortfalls in energy markets over the next 24 months”.
He said one of the reasons Labor plans to form a NSW Energy Security Corporation is because ‘we are concerned about exactly these things’.
“When the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, we need to make sure we have enough power for the people of NSW,” Mr Minns said.
“Right now that’s not going to happen because Matt Kean hasn’t done the work to make sure there’s energy security within the grid.
“I cannot rule out further action regarding Eraring.
The coalition has sold all five of NSW’s coal-fired power plants since coming to power in 2011, while the previous Labor government sold NSW energy suppliers, but Mr Minns has ruled out further privatization if Labor takes power.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (right) said he and Energy Secretary Matt Kean (left) were ‘completely on the same page’ about the future of the Eraring power station
In February he said: ‘Privatization doesn’t work. It’s been a disaster for NSW and under Labor it stops.”
If Labor were to buy back Eraring it would be the opposite of privatisation, it would mean the state taking back control of a previously privatized asset.
If the buyback was about anything but a coal-fired power station, it would have the backing of the Labor left and the Greens.
But it does involve fossil fuels – and Mr Minns will have calculated that no matter how many votes the switch loses to the Greens and minor parties, the decision will come back in spades in the seats Labor needs to win in Western Sydney.
TIPS TO CONTROL PRICE RISES
Talk to your retailer if you are under financial pressure:
They may be able to offer payment plans, smooth out bills, put you on a hardship plan, or provide financial advice. As long as you start the conversation and stick to your payment plan, your power supply will continue.
Don’t go into more debt to cover your energy debt:
Hardship programs through your electrical store do not carry any interest. If you use other methods like credit cards or loans they will.
Compare plans and prices:
If you find a cheaper deal, you may be able to switch and save within two business days. When comparing, pay close attention to the percentage below the current reference price.
Look beyond the usage price:
It is very likely that daily delivery costs will also increase, so keep this in mind when comparing plans. Also keep an eye out for discounts. While many plans offer benefits, they may not always give you the best bang for your buck. Increased discounts probably won’t match the pace of your price increases, so you’ll still end up paying more for your usage overall.
Changes around the house when it comes to electricity consumption:
• Use smart appliances that you can adjust remotely to make you more energy efficient.
• Turn off appliances, game consoles, computers, and wall lights when not in use.
• Use solar energy generated by your solar panels during the day or store it in a battery for later use.
• Avoid power hungry devices during peak hours. It is usually cheaper to run appliances during off-peak hours at night or on weekends.
Source: Compare the Market