Jennifer Westacott: Time to End Poorly-Designed Energy Policy

Jennifer Westacott

Jennifer Westacott – Poor energy policy must go

Jennifer Westacott is the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia and has extensive policy experience in both the public and private sectors. She has occupied critical leadership positions in the New South Wales and Victorian governments. This weekend she wrote in The Australian about the devastating impact of poorly-designed energy policy on businesses and energy consumers – and the necessity to make changes now.

Repeal carbon tax to reclaim our lost advantage in energy
The Australian
12-13 July 2014

NEXT week we hope to finally get rid of a piece of badly designed public policy that has placed a serious drag on our economy — the carbon tax.

Coming from the power sharing deal between the former government and the Greens, it was a creature of a political compromise and resulted in the highest carbon tax of any country in the world. It’s not that we shouldn’t have taken action on climate change, but the carbon tax was poorly designed, it was unworkable and an example of a very poor policy process.

We might be able to farewell the carbon tax, but it is just one of a long line of green energy policies which federal and state governments have layered on top of one another that are driving up the cost of electricity.

It is the cumulative impact of these policies that is pushing up the cost of electricity and making our businesses less competitive.

Repeal of the carbon tax therefore must be the beginning of removing shortsighted schemes and programs, and the start of a process to design an integrated approach to climate change and energy policy that supports rather than weighs down our economic competitiveness and jobs.

Let’s get some facts on the table about the real costs of green energy policies on the economy.

Analysis for the Business Council by Synergies Economic Consulting and Roam Consulting of actual electricity prices across the mainland states of the National Electricity Market shows that the cost of electricity has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

This will not come as news for anyone opening their electricity bill each quarter, but what is startling about the analysis is the extent to which a plethora of green energy policies have collectively driven up the cost of electricity, particularly for business who are large consumers of electricity.

The research shows that together, the carbon tax, the Renewable Energy Target, and state-based energy efficiency schemes now account for up to 40 per cent of the total electricity bill for a large business that does not qualify for government assistance, such as non trade-exposed manufacturing, dairy farms, retail outlets and office buildings.

Even for businesses that do receive government assistance, the total cost of green energy policies on their electricity bill is 17-25 per cent. There are thousands of businesses that face the brunt of these higher costs. This erodes the competitiveness of Australia relative to the rest of the world and will be a direct hit to the living standards of all Australians.

For households, the research shows that green energy policies account for 11 per cent of an average household electricity bill. The carbon tax alone is estimated to have accounted for 6 per cent of a household electricity bill and 20 per cent for a large business, less for those that qualify for government assistance.

On top of this, the RET is estimated to cost up to almost 10 per cent of a typical electricity bill for a large business that does not receive any exemption, and 3 per cent of a typical household electricity bill.

State-based schemes, including feed-in tariffs and energy ­efficiency schemes, account for 2 per cent of a household bill and up to 12 per cent of a large business bill — for which there is no compensation available.

What the cumulative cost of these schemes highlights is that when climate change policies are developed in isolation of energy policy, it adds to the cost of reducing emissions and ultimately consumers pay more for electricity than they otherwise should.

Good energy policy should deliver reliable and competitively priced energy in the long-term interests of consumers, and include climate policy that enables lowest-cost emissions reduction that keeps us competitive with the rest of the world.

Business and households remain in the dark as to when the high-cost carbon tax will be repealed as politicians debate trade-offs with the Palmer United Party to rescind the tax. Businesses are increasingly concerned that the proposed PUP amendments will bring new levels of complexity and red tape. If the parliament is serious about reducing electricity costs, a speedy repeal with a workable process to ensure reduced electricity prices are reflected in household bills is required.

Repealing the carbon tax is the first step to putting Australia on track for an integrated approach to climate change and energy policy that supports economic competitiveness and jobs. Australia should work to reclaim our comparative advantage in energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with global ­efforts, by:

1. Providing access to least cost abatement through international permits and getting the design of the emissions reduction fund right.

2. Amending the RET to a true 20 per cent of demand by 2020 and discontinuing the scheme once all liabilities are met in 2030.

3. Integrating climate change and energy policies as part of the government’s energy white paper.

4. Ensuring that future climate change and energy policies look at the cumulative impact of new policies on the cost of energy to households, businesses and the economy as a whole.

5. Completing the outstanding energy market reform agenda initiated by the Hilmer Review, including privatising energy assets, deregulating retail prices, adopting more uniform and economically efficient reliability standards and moving to more cost-reflective electricity tariffs.

With Australia’s competitiveness slipping, and with many businesses, families and individuals struggling, it is vital that the parliament develop consensus on the big issues facing our country such as our demographic changes, the rise of technology and our declining competitiveness.

Reaching a degree of bipartisanship on the critical principles on energy and climate change policy will ensure we play our role in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while we reclaim energy as a comparative advantage for Australia in this increasingly competitive world.

The Australian

The mandatory RET/REC scheme is nothing more then a giant TAX on all Australian power consumers: with the proceeds either channelled as corporate welfare to near bankrupt outfits like Infigen (as RECs); or pocketed by the Government, as the shortfall charge. And all of that adding $50 billion or more to power costs, for absolutely no measurable benefit whatsoever.

The mandatory RET must go now.

electricity-price-rise

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Martin Hayles says:

    Interesting commentary Terry. It takes a great deal of courage to speak the truth, more so in absolute sense.
    Our body politic, at present lacks this.
    The abomination, or is that absurdity, that is our senate is representative of an ill-informed and self-interested electorate.
    Perhaps worse, it is indicative of an apathetic society, but then to be apathetic I suppose one has to have a real grasp of what is happening and feel a genuine sadness of the obvious.

  2. Terry Conn says:

    What Ms. Westacott says she wants for Australian business and families is what we all want, but the solutions are nuts if they include retaining the RET at a ‘true’ 20% by 2020 and keep paying until 2031. She might think the suggestion will keep the wind industry happy and she’d be correct, but helping Australian business, totally wrong. Further, there appears to be no attention given to different so called ‘renewable energy’ technologies. As we all know ‘wind farms’ cause no abatement of GHG at any cost. You need to become more sophisticated in your analysis Jennifer and spend less time talking to wind farm rent seekers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: