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National Energy Laws (Regulatory Sandboxing)

17 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak on the Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Regulatory Sandboxing) Bill. This bill, as part of the national energy law reforms, introduces options to trial emerging innovative technologies and business models in the national energy market.

As I have stated earlier in this place, we are in a climate crisis. For over 100 years, fossil fuels have been providing the energy that we need to stay warm, to keep the lights on and to build industry. According to the National Greenhouse Accounts, energy industries were responsible for 17 per cent of South Australia's greenhouse emissions in 2020. To move towards a cleaner and greener future, we need to evolve our electricity distribution, infrastructure, storage and generation. New technologies are vital to move to a carbon neutral society, and this bill allows for trials for energy technologies in a safe and regulated manner.

While the Greens are broadly supportive of the bill, we do have some concerns regarding clause 33, the innovative trial principles. This section of the bill focuses on developing natural gas services. As this is a national energy law, we are advised that there will be reluctance to move amendments to this element.

I do note, of course, that has happened in the past but, recognising the position of the parties and also the desire to expedite this bill, I will not pursue the amendments that I had previously considered. I will, however, ask the government some questions about that during the committee stage.

After the National Hydrogen Strategy was developed, it became clear that a new definition would be required for gas. According to a policy paper released by energy ministers, a decision was made on 20 August 2021 by the ministers that the national gas regulatory framework should:

…be amended and that the amendments should be expedited to ensure that regulatory barriers do not restrict proposed investments in projects and existing regulatory arrangements and protections continue to work as intended where renewable gases are supplied.

On 28 October this year, energy ministers agreed to amend national gas laws to facilitate this change. The public consultation draft to enact this agreement includes greener fuels such as biogas, biomethane, hydrogen and synthetic methane.

We should not need to wait for a future bill to change the terminology in this proposed legislation. We should be doing it here and now. I will certainly be pursuing the government on that matter. By changing the terminology in this bill, we will move away from natural gas, and we could make provisions for future fuels such as green hydrogen. Creating an environment where we can be agile in our energy and trial new innovations will be beneficial to the transition away from fossil fuels. It is in that spirit that the Greens will be supporting this reform.