Rolling coverage of the Australian energy industry and COVID-19

It goes without saying that having stable electricity supply during a pandemic is crucial to keeping the country going, and saving lives. With so much uncertainty, change and frequent announcements, we’re endeavouring to bring you the latest with what our industry is doing in these uncertain times.

For energy customers

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has released a statement of expectations for retailers and networks for protecting households and small business during the COVID-19 pandemic. It expects disconnection, reconnection and contract break fees should be waived in certain circumstances, and for retailers to not disconnect customers during times of hardship.

Read its full list of expectations here.

The Australian Energy Council (AEC), whose members include Australia’s largest energy retailers, announced its members are making sure help is available to customers impacted by COVID-19.

Energy retailers stand ready to provide scalable, accessible and tailored assistance to affected customers.

Customers who are concerned about their ability to pay their energy bill in the coming months are advised in the first instance to contact their retailer as they have a number of proactive assistance measures including extensions, payment plans, assistance with accessing grants and concessions and more.

See more details below.

The Energy Charter signatories said the need for the supply of essential services including electricity supply is paramount to support our community and ensure everyone’s safety. In line with The Energy Charter’s principles, 19 CEOs across the gas and electricity supply chains are working collaboratively to ensure the provision of energy.

See more details below.

Energy networks

Federal, state and territory energy ministers have agreed to rule changes to fast-track critical transmission projects. The COAG Council agreed to the changes proposed by the Energy Security Board. The rule changes make the Integrated System Plan (ISP) actionable. Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said more investment in cost-effective transmission was critical to maintain the reliability and affordability of the electricity system.

Energy networks are appealing for customer and general understanding that critical works on energy infrastructure needs to continue.

Energy Networks Australia said there is a need to continue critical maintenance to protect lives, prevent damage to properties and keep the power on for the future. Energy Networks Australia released a video as an explainer as to why these critical works need to take place.

Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon assured that the work that is being undertaken is absolutely essential to ensure a safe and secure energy system.

Read more below.

Projects and investment

Broadly, after major economic crises, countries tend to turn to stimulus packages that include investments in “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects. According to the World Resources Institute, in the past this has included propping up coal projects, upgrading roads, investing in heavy industries and so on. The Federal Government and state governments have a choice to make now whether they want to commit to decades of polluting and in-efficient technologies that will destroy Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, or invest in clean energy technologies.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) is calling on the federal and state governments to provide what it says are important initiatives to ensure the clean energy industry continues to forge ahead. While it recognises COVID-19 is unprecedented and everyone is coming to grips with what it may mean for the economy, the CEC is saying the clean energy industry could play an important role in the nation’s economic recovery, as well as protect customers from high electricity costs. As such, it’s lobbying the governments to make renewable energy and storage a key part of their response packages.

See its full recommendations below.

Queensland has already announced it is strategically looking towards the end of the coronavirus pandemic by announcing that state-owned CleanCo is buying into the 1026MW MacIntyre wind complex.

The project is being built by ACCIONA, reaching an agreement with government-owned renewable energy generator CleanCo to become an independent owner and operator of a 100MW wind farm within the complex.

The state’s Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said they need shovel-ready projects when we come out the other side of this.

Read more about the project below.

Some of Australia’s leading energy providers have also announced they will be approaching international hydrogen experts to help develop Australia’s low-carbon vision through hydrogen. The approach will be co-ordinated by a partnership between Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG), Jemena, AusNet Services and Evoenergy.

The process will mean suppliers of key inputs to the international hydrogen supply are invited to comment on the feasibility, approach and cost of achieving 10 per cent renewable hydrogen by volume across gas networks in the east and south of Australia.

See more details below.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) Gas Statement of Opportunities 2020 says the gas supply outlook up to 2023 looks positive, but after 2023 there is the potential for significant shortfalls from 2023. It therefore comes as welcome news to the industry that Queensland has given the green light to two junior explorers: Pure Energy/Strata X and Santos Ventures to explore and develop gas on 164 square kilometres of highly prospective land in south-west Queensland. Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the blocks were close to existing gas infrastructure and near Australia’s gas hub in Wallumbilla.

Read more below.

Genex Power has also announced it has finalised an offtake agreement with EnergyAustralia with the signing of a binding Energy Storage Services Agreement. The key terms of the agreement include a term of up to 30 years, with an initial term of 10 years with two options for extension at 10 years each, plus full operational dispatch rights for the K2 Hydro plant for EnergyAustralia.

Read the full story below.

Staying connected

The team at Energy Source & Distribution are fortunate to be operating business as usual, albeit in work from home situations.

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