Labor asleep at wheel as electricity crisis developed

The State Liberals say a 280 per cent surge in spot prices for electricity in South Australia from July 2015 to July 2016 is a damning indictment of the Weatherill Government’s incompetent handling of the energy portfolio.

As of the 25th of July the average spot price for electricity for the month was $279.50 per megawatt hour, up from $73.50 per megawatt hour in July last year and just $51.76 the year before.

“The massive leap in the wholesale price of electricity in South Australia comes after the closure of the Port Augusta power station and despite Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis telling Parliament ‘I am quite confident that we will be fine’ before Port Augusta closed down,” said Shadow Minister for Energy Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

“South Australia has entered a dangerous period where our skyhigh electricity prices are putting household budgets under enormous pressure and threaten to kill job creation but Tom Koutsantonis was entirely oblivious to the gathering storm.

“Tom Koutsantonis’ ignorance about the looming crisis in electricity prices in South Australia is indicative of a Minister out of his depth in the critical energy portfolio.”

Hansard 28 July 2015

Dan van Holst Pellekaan:

With regard to the government's responsibility to ensure an environment under which electricity is supplied affordably and reliably to households, what is the government doing in that space to make up for the fact that Alinta's production will not be in the market?

Tom Koutsantonis:

Basically, there is plenty of capacity within the system. It is not expected to grow beyond that. There is plenty of safe interconnection… I am quite confident that we will be fine.

“The electricity industry certainly didn’t believe South Australia was going to fine after Alinta signaled it was intending to close the Port Augusta power station,” said Mr van Holst Pellekaan.

“Industry leaders through to regular people on the street raised concerns that the impending closure of the Port Augusta power station would result in shortages of supply and increased prices, yet the Treasurer and Energy Minister was peddling complacent nonsense.

“Since the spike in electricity prices Treasurer Koutsantonis has blamed household customer for not shopping around, industrial customers for not taking contract prices, gas suppliers for selling to export, insufficient interconnection, the National Electricity Market rules and even the distant privatisation of ETSA for a problem he was warned about but denied was real.”