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National Energy (Ministerial Reliability Instrument)

9 March 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to indicate the Greens' support for this bill, which will introduce a ministerial reliability instrument in other states that is already in place here in South Australia. In the transition to renewable energy, the stability of electricity is vital. This bill allows energy ministers to intervene three years before a predicted failure in the energy market.

We have seen successes here in South Australia in producing and supplying high levels of renewable energy. In 15 years we have shifted from 1 per cent renewable energy to almost 65 per cent of South Australia's power coming from wind, rooftop solar, large-scale solar and battery storage.

A renewable, reliable grid is vital to our state's energy needs. This bill allows the national energy market to implement reliability instruments, as is already done here in South Australia. Reliable energy ensures the demands of consumers can be met consistently. The ministerial reliability instrument is only for stability issues that can be forecast and thus it will not provide outcomes for storm-related blackouts, such as those that were experienced by South Australia last year.

According to the Australian Energy Regulator, there are currently three reliability instruments in place for South Australia for 2024, 2025 and 2026. A reliability instrument was in place for the current period but has been revoked. Many of these reliability instruments are revoked before implementation as the need no longer exists. What this shows us is that this is a safeguard mechanism that is only enacted when necessary. The Greens will be supporting this bill to ensure ministers can step in to provide safeguards for a reliable network in the transition to renewable energy.

But I do want to point out that it will take more than this bill to provide security for South Australians in terms of our state's energy needs. Some months ago, I proposed here in this place that the government hold a commission of inquiry into bringing back ETSA. We have seen, since the privatisation of our electricity network 20-odd years ago, the disaster that has faced South Australian consumers in terms of skyrocketing costs and the unreliability of the network. Indeed, our electricity network cannot even weather a storm.

So we need to bring our electricity network back into public hands, and the South Australian people should own the distribution and production of that network. That is precisely why the Greens have been advocating to bring back ETSA. Unfortunately, that is a position that is opposed by both of the major parties in this place. I am not sure why. They seem to be beholden to corporate interests rather than the interests of the South Australians they represent.

That said, the Greens will continue to push for public ownership of electricity. We believe that public assets belong in public hands. That is the way that we guarantee the stability of our network. But, that said, we will support the legislation that has been proposed by the government.