Energy sector needs certainty to invest

A price benchmark for electricity bills is a welcome step to drive lower power costs for families and small business but further action is needed to improve affordability, reliability and reduce emissions, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“The business community supports the Government’s decision to adopt the ACCC’s recommendation to introduce a benchmark price and supports any moves to lower electricity prices.

“Business has been crying out for a workable and durable national energy policy framework to deliver affordable and reliable energy whilst also helping to meet our international commitments.

“The intention to convene a meeting of the major energy retailers in the coming weeks to discuss current standing offers and the implementation of a price benchmark is another welcome move.

“Determining a price benchmark needs to be done in consultation with industry to ensure price reforms are fit-for-purpose, protect competition in the market and provide the best outcomes for both consumers and businesses.

“Importantly, introducing a benchmark price is just one of more than 50 recommendations made by the ACCC to help lower power prices. We call on the Federal Government to work with the states, territories and industry on implementing a range of other recommendations, that as a package, are likely to deliver significant savings for consumers.

“Business backs the implementation of the reliability obligation – and continues to do so – but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

“Policy uncertainty has paralysed investment in dispatchable generation for a decade. The Government’s intention to introduce a new program to underwrite new investment in firm electricity supply must not have the unintended consequence of undermining investment from the private sector.

“We look forward to working closely with government on the design of the program.

“Ad hoc intervention in the energy market, such as underwriting generation investment or forced divestment, is sending a signal to the world that investing in Australia comes with considerable risks. In the long-term, this will only result in less investment in energy generation, less reliable energy and ultimately higher prices. 

“The business community would be concerned at any move to consider forced divestments which would send the wrong signal on investment.

“Australia needs policies that support new investment and deliver lower prices. We should be cautious that new interventions into the market do not increase sovereign risk and discourage the new investment the sector urgently needs.”