Interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW

Transcript

30 October 2019

E&OE

NEIL MITCHELL: The Federal Government's today announcing $1 billion worth of projects to try to future-proof the energy network - well is it going to work? On the line, Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Good morning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good morning, Neil. Thanks for having me.

NEIL MITCHELL: Hey first, what do you think of these protests at the mining conference?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Oh, well, I think people just want to get the work done there, Neil. I think it's extraordinary. I've got to say some of that behaviour is completely un-Australian from my point of view. I think people want to get about their lives. There's no problem with people making their point, that's fine. But when it gets to the stage it has here, I think people rightly say it's not on. I mean and the real question, you know, who's going to pay for all the policing? And everyone pays for this too when it gets to this point.

NEIL MITCHELL: The point is coal is dirty though. That's their main point, I think - apart from those who want to just overthrow the society - the main point seems to be, and that’s according to Adam Bandt, the main points seems to be coal is dirty.

ANGUS TAYLOR: You can make your point but you don't need to behave like that. Look, there are sensible debates to be had about our energy system, Neil, as you well know, but there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it, and you know, these people are overreaching.

NEIL MITCHELL: Can you, by working with Daniel Andrews, guarantee that Victoria will have power this summer?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I think there's very real risks in Victoria this summer and we've written to the Victorian Government, to the Victorian Energy Minister, and said we want to work with them on projects that are going to firm up the grid, and I've received no response. But my offer remains out there.

NEIL MITCHELL: When did you write to her?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Several weeks ago.

NEIL MITCHELL: Okay.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, we want to fix the reliability problem in the Victorian grid, but what you've got down here is a set of policies where you've seen premature closure of coal-fired power stations, you've seen a ban on all gas - conventional and unconventional - and you've got reckless targets without dispatchable power, reliable power to balance it.  Now, we've made an offer to the Victorian Government. We are open to working with them on reliability. We've got a $1 billion fund we've announced today which will support that to bring new reliable generation into the market. We've got two projects on our shortlist in Victoria.

NEIL MITCHELL: Sorry, that's not going to help this summer, is it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, no. Look, frankly, this summer, the risks are high. As I say, we'll do everything we can in the short term, but we have to get more supply into the market in Victoria as fast as we can, Neil, because there are very, very real risks down here. Not just for this summer but for future summers.

NEIL MITCHELL: So what are the projects? You're putting $1 billion in - what are the projects that you're-

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well some of the projects that we've shortlisted are identified, there’ll be more, but there's two projects in Victoria; both gas generators - one in the Dandenong, one in Gippsland - and they're both projects that could provide backup and storage to the record amount of renewables we've seen going into the system.

NEIL MITCHELL: But will Victoria wear that at the moment under their policy with their restrictions on gas?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I mean, you know, we've got to get access to gas. The gas at the moment, some of it's got to come down from Queensland and it's very expensive. We have no choice at this point but to get some gas generation into the market. We also want to provide more support from pumped hydro, both in Snowy and from Tasmania. But again, we need state governments who want to work with us on this, who recognise that a balanced system is necessary. Premature closure of coal-fired power stations doesn't work if you haven't got replacements of like-for-like dispatchable capacity. But right now in Victoria, we are not seeing any willingness from the government to work with us on it. Now, as I say, we are keen to get on with it but we need collaboration from the state government.

NEIL MITCHELL: Well what is the outlook if the Victorian Government? If it doesn't at least sit down and try and work something out - what's the outlook?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It will get worse. It will get worse. I mean you can't keep pouring variable renewables into the system, solar and wind essentially into the system without balancing it up. You simply can't do it and expect the lights to stay on, and to expect prices to stay down because what happens when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing then you've got no alternative there as storage and backup. You have got to have that balance in the system. The very simple message - we stand ready to work with state governments who want to work with us.

NEIL MITCHELL: So is the bottom line to Victoria free up the gas?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well that's certainly one of the things that they need to do, Neil. There's no doubt about that. We're not even talking here about unconventional gas, just conventional gas. But they also need to work with us to get more supply - pumped hydro and gas in particular into the system through new generation. As I say, we stand ready to work with them to do that.

NEIL MITCHELL: Thank you for your time. The Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction