30 October 2019
ANGUS TAYLOR: Good afternoon everybody. As you all know and as I've said many times, what we're seeing in Australia right now is world-leading investment in renewable energy, in and solar and wind, but that needs to be complimented with supply that is dispatchable, that is firm, that is there when you need it. We need to make sure our grids right across the east coast of Australia are reliable and secure, delivering affordable reliable power for Australian families, households and industry that supplies so many jobs in the suburbs and regional areas. With that in mind what we're announcing today is $1 billion reliability fund, a Grid Reliability Fund that is focused on making sure we have enough reliable supply in the system to bring wholesale prices down and to ensure that when Australians flick the switch, the lights go on. We have seen in Victoria last January, 200,000 consumers lost their power. That's simply not good enough. This fund is going into place to ensure we shore up the grid and we put that downward pressure on wholesale prices that is so crucial. In the lead-up to the last election, based on the recommendation of the ACCC we have committed to the Underwriting New Generation Investments program. We have short listed 12 projects that can provide that supply that's dispatchable and reliable into states across the east coast. We're down to a short-listed group of projects, where we're in advanced negotiations with a number of those. This Grid Reliability Fund is going into place to ensure those projects are financed, are supported and going into the market as quickly as possible. This is a priority across the east coast of Australia. It's a priority for Australians because they deserve a fair deal on energy.
JOURNALIST: Where's the $1 billion coming from and how will it be raised?
ANGUS TAYLOR: The $1 billion is not on Budget, it is part of a financing arrangement which we do with many other vehicles in the Federal Government, including the CEFC now, as well as the NAIF, they are structured in a very similar way.
JOURNALIST: Does it affect the Budget bottom line?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No.
JOURNALIST: Can you explain a bit more about how the distribution of the funding will work, and maybe specifically with Delta Electricity's coal-fired power station upgrade, how would that fit into it? Will that be able to get funding?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, coal is being dealt with separately from this. It is not part of this fund. It is project by project. We are working through 12 projects now, as we’ve said since before the election. We are in advanced negotiations with a number of those but there is also transmission projects that are candidates for this. In fact, we announced that we will be underwriting a transmission project in New South Wales just this week, and that's an example of how transmission can be used to make sure there's enough reliable supply in the market place. That is one way of doing it. Local supply is absolutely crucial. As I say there is a number of projects right across the east coast that we're assessing right now.
JOURNALIST: Why has this fund suddenly emerged now? Is it addressing a critical problem in the grid that the Government has just been alerted to?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We are in Victoria today, and last January we saw 200,000 houses, 200,000 consumers lose their power. That is not good enough. The ACCC recommended, in its review last year, that we put in place an underwriting new generation program, firm dispatchable supply to compliment that world-leading level of investment in renewables. This is how we will finance those projects, alongside transmission projects that make sense to put downward pressure on prices.
JOURNALIST: On average, how much will the fund disperse each year?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Every project is different. We will do this on a project-by-project basis. Projects that can put downward pressure on prices, that can support keeping the lights on and reliability will be supported. We want the private sector to do the vast majority of the heavy lifting here. This is moving in where it is necessary where there's been a market failure and when good projects come along that would otherwise not proceed, then we will provide the support.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of the private sector, Michael McCormack said this morning the Collinsville coal-fired station, its feasibility study will happen early next year. Do you expect the private sector will come in to back that new coal fired power station?
ANGUS TAYLOR: That is a question for investors, not for me. Look, we want the private sector to provide the investment necessary to ensure that the prices come down and that we keep the lights on in coming years. Government will play as much of a role as we have to but as little as possible. It is very a simple principle. So, we strongly encourage private sector investors to work up projects and get on with it and we'll provide, as I say, as little as we have to but we must get that supply into the market place to put downward pressure on wholesale prices.
JOURNALIST: On an energy-related issue, what do you make of the scenes outside the mining conference in Melbourne this week, the protests?
ANGUS TAYLOR: People are free to protest but at the end of the day Australians expect civil behaviour. People want to get to work and they don't want to be interrupted in doing that. People have got to do the right thing and behave properly. To be frank with you, some of the behaviour that we have seen in Victoria and in other states in recent weeks is unacceptable and frankly un-Australian.
JOURNALIST: You have apologised to Clover Moore for the false claims about her travel costs, but do you apologise for incompetence within your office for spreading that information?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I made a statement on this last week. I am not going to make an additional statement.
JOURNALIST: Will you release the documents from within your office to explain how that false information was-
ANGUS TAYLOR: As I said, I have made a statement on this last week. We will get the letter off to Clover Moore this week.
JOURNALIST: That’s what were going to ask - if you have sent the letter, the letter hasn't been sent yet?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're sending it off this week.
JOURNALIST: Just a question on behalf of my colleague, just about coal-fired projects, why are you excluding them when you've continually argued that they're the best way to underpin sustainable-
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're not excluding coal. We are just dealing with it in a different way. We have in the 12 short-listed projects, there is a project at Vales Point that is on the list but it is not being dealt with in this way. Look, the important point here is that we want to make sure we get enough supply into the market to put downward pressure on prices. We know we're seeing rapid reductions in emissions in the electricity grid right now and we expect to reach our 26% emissions reduction target well ahead of time, eight or nine years ahead of time. I do want to add, the other thing we are now seeing is a turnaround in electricity prices. We have just today, just in the last hour or so, seen the latest CPI figures come out. Third quarter in a row we have seen reductions in electricity prices. This is extremely good news for Australian families, households, small businesses and heavy industry. This is the turnaround we wanted to see. We are now seeing it. We know that our policies, the price caps we put in place from 1 July, the Retailer Reliability Obligation - these initiatives are working. We have to make sure that continues to happen and that it is across the board. Some families and businesses are benefiting. We want to see everyone benefitting from the price reductions that are flowing through now.