Joint statement: Governments should back incentives for dispatchable power

Published: 27 Aug 2021

The Australian Workers' Union and Mining & Energy Union are jointly calling on all Australian governments to get behind the Energy Security Board recommendations for Australia's explosion in low-cost renewable energy production to be matched with "sufficient investment in reliable generation."

The Energy Security Board is recommending incentives to stop the early closure of coal-fired power plants and create long-term signals for investment in dispatchable generation.

Mining & Energy Union General President Tony Maher said it should not be left to the market alone to manage major transition in the energy grid. 

"You cannot have a Hazelwood situation repeated across the country, where power stations close suddenly because they are no longer commercially viable,” Mr Maher said.

“The consequences of this ad hoc approach would be devastating for workers, their families and their communities. It would also trigger price spikes and blackouts. 

"The nations that have most successfully managed energy transition, like Germany, have recognised that it needs to be orderly and predictable. Australia has been built on coal-fired energy, and it's still where the overwhelming majority of electricity in our grid comes from. Those who argue you should just let the market rip are arguing for unnecessary chaos and pain."

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said making the Energy Security Board's recommendations law would be critical to securing Australia's manufacturing sector. 

"If reliable, dispatchable power, like coal-fired power, disappears from the grid overnight the consequences would be catastrophic for Australian manufacturing," Mr Walton said. 

"Steel mills, glass factories, and aluminium smelters can't stop operation when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow. They need to run continuously or they break and fail. 

"It’s vital to ensure that coal and gas power is accessible to manufacturing until renewable dispatchable power is available to replace it. 

"Australia can and should be a 21st century, zero-emission manufacturing powerhouse. But if we want that future we need to keep manufacturing alive today. That means locking in dispatchable power.

"On behalf of all our members in manufacturing, I strongly urge every government in Australia to get behind the Energy Security Board's recommendations and ensure dispatchable power is retained in the near future."