A $265 million energy package in the 2017 Federal Budget will ensure Australia maintains a secure, reliable and competitive energy system into the future.
The nation’s energy system is undergoing its greatest transition since electricity became widely available in Australia. The measures in this package will set Australia up for a modern and dynamic energy system, allowing us to keep pace with changing energy technologies, as we transition to a lower emissions future.
It is supporting a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme with a study grant through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to examine the best locations to increase the Snowy’s capacity to produce reliable, affordable renewable energy and provide pumped hydro storage.
The Commonwealth has indicated to the New South Wales and Victorian State Governments that, in order to accelerate the expansion of the Scheme, it is open to acquiring a larger share or outright ownership of Snowy Hydro, subject to some sensible conditions. These conditions include that the Scheme would have to remain in public hands and that Snowy Hydro’s obligations under its water licence would be reaffirmed.
The Government is also looking at further hydro-electricity and pumped storage opportunities in Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland.
It is laying the groundwork for infrastructure development that will deliver more secure and reliable power into the medium term, including through a $5.2 million national interest and cost-benefit analysis study into the construction of gas pipelines from the Northern Territory and Western Australia to the east coast, through Moomba in South Australia.
Improving the transparency, competitiveness and long term security of Australia’s east coast gas market is a priority for the Government as gas is a crucial energy source as we transition to a low carbon economy.
To expand gas supply as part of a package of about $90 million, the Government will extend funding by $30.4 million for the world leading Bioregional Assessments program to assess any potential impacts on waterways and aquifers from unconventional gas projects. Over the next three years the expanded program will examine new gas reserves and provide independent scientific advice to governments, landowners and the community, business and investors on future secure and reliable gas supply.
This package also includes $28.7 million over four years from 2017-18 to encourage and accelerate the responsible development of onshore gas for the domestic market.
To bring down the cost of gas for Australian families and businesses, the Government has already committed to the most substantial gas market reforms in two decades. To deliver these reforms sooner, the Government will provide $19.6 million over four years to the Gas Market Reform Group to better facilitate gas trading, encourage greater competition to place downwards pressure on prices and ensure gas markets are more transparent and accountable.
The Government has also committed $2.0 million to the Australian Energy Market Operator to improve publication of real time assessment of gas flows and market analysis, to make it easier for the market operator, businesses and investors to make informed decisions about gas market operations.
It is imperative the states continue to work with the Australian Government to overcome regulatory barriers and inconsistent policies, to support streamlined and accelerated development of new gas markets. This Budget provides $500,000 for this work.
By learning more from consumers, exploring innovative options to expand existing renewable energy sources and unlocking new energy supplies, the Government is building the future energy market.
The Government is committing $13.4 million to support an Energy Use Data Model—world class data linking, analysis and modelling being undertaken by the CSIRO—to improve energy market forecasting that will facilitate better energy management and infrastructure planning.
Commercial and residential consumers have already benefitted from smarter, lower emissions technologies developed and commercialised through ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
As part of this work the Turnbull Government will also make available up to $110 million to build a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta in South Australia and separately provide up to $36.6 million over two years from 2017-18 to target investment in energy infrastructure in South Australia under a bilateral Asset Recycling agreement.
The Australian Energy Regulator will receive an additional $7.95 million to scrutinise energy providers to ensure they are serving consumers’ needs.
The Turnbull Government will provide $6.6 million over three years from 2017-18 to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to establish a monitoring regime for the gas market by using its inquiry powers to compel the gas industry to provide greater transparency of transactions in the gas market, including factors affecting supply and pricing.
The Government will also provide $7.9 million in 2017-18 to the ACCC to review retail electricity prices. The ACCC will produce a paper within six months on its preliminary insights into the strategies and pricing behaviours of key electricity retailers. The energy package will deliver practical actions to help Australians through the critical time over the next few summers while laying the foundations for long term reforms to ensure the energy market is better equipped to handle future challenges.
Longer-term changes to our energy system are being considered in the context of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market being conducted by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, and the 2017 review of climate policies.