He reiterated the government’s chief goal, which is to “reduce prices while keeping the lights on.”
The approach as outlined in the speech appears to reiterate what had been promised by the Turnbull government prior to the leadership spill, announced Aug. 20. This announcement came just after Turnbull dropped his plan to legislate the Paris CO2 emissions target of 26 percent due to strong objections from party members.
In his speech, Taylor outlined the government’s plan to introduce a consumer safety net, increase competition in the electricity sector, and stamp out price-gouging by power companies.
An honour to give my first speech as Energy Minister at the @VodafoneAU National Small Business Summit #NSBS18 @COSBOA today. My priority is to get prices down. Here’s how: https://t.co/OckPCmsbDk pic.twitter.com/yqsPLE5axn
— Angus Taylor MP (@AngusTaylorMP) August 30, 2018
A consumer safety net means that retailers will be required to offer customers low-cost, default price contracts. The default market price, to replace unregulated standing offers, will be based those recommended by the competition watchdog Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC). The ACCC expects that such market prices could save households $183 to $416 a year and typical small businesses $561 to $1457.
Taylor said that in order to increase competition and ensure adequate electricity supply to replace ageing coal-powered stations, the government will be guaranteeing finance for new low-cost, dependable electricity generation projects.
To stamp out price gouging, Taylor warned of consequences for energy companies that chose to engage in such actions. One such action could be to force companies to divest one or more of their assets back onto the market—reducing the monopoly of combined wholesale and retail energy companies—although this would be a “last resort.”
Taylor, who had been a strategy and business consultant in the resources, agriculture, energy and infrastructure sectors before entering politics, likened power companies to the big banks and said they have eroded the trust of Australians.
“We need to re-establish this trust. For too long, governments have been distracted by the wrong things,” he said.
“In the modern world of business, the electricity sector, like the banks, needs to re-establish its credibility or social licence with the community,” Taylor said. “That means maintaining and increasing industrial jobs in energy-intensive industries and ensuring households, particularly those doing it toughest, can make ends meet.”
“The loss of trust and the failure to deliver acceptable outcomes has reached the point where the government has no choice to wield a big stick, which we will use if we have to,” he added.
“The simple truth is that if industry steps up and does the right thing on price, government can step back and focus on other things,” Taylor said.
Not a Climate Sceptic
Morrison has dubbed Taylor “the minister for getting electricity prices down.” Under the Morrison government, emissions reduction has been moved back to the environment portfolio, and will no longer be tied to the energy portfolio.
In a commitment to boosting energy supply, Taylor indicated the need to expand existing gas and coal plants that are dependable and upgrade ageing generators, alongside championing new projects.
“We need to encourage all of these,” he said. “It’s ironic that in a country with an abundance of natural resources—coal, gas, water and solar—we should be in this position.”
“We need to leverage those resources, not leave them in the ground.”
Taylor said that Turnbull’s plan to expand the Snowy Hydro scheme will continue. He said his grandfather was the first commissioner and chief engineer of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
In his speech, Taylor rejected claims that he is a “climate sceptic.”
“Renewables are in my blood, and have been from the day I was born.”
Taylor owns a farm near Goulburn and said he was a “lover of the environment.”
“I’m not sceptical about climate science,” Taylor said.
“But I am and have been for many years, deeply sceptical about the economics of so many of the emission reduction schemes dreamed up by vested interest, tech contracts and politicians around the world.”
“None of my concerns justify support for expensive programmes that deliver little else other than funnelling consumers’ hard-earned money into vested interests, resulting in increased prices and reduced reliability.”
Taylor is supportive of solar and hydro renewable energy, but not wind. He said renewable energy must be “commercially viable” and operate “alongside continued focus on coal and gas.”