Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:27): I rise to make a contribution to the Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Wholesale Market Monitoring) Bill. It was back on 8 June 2022 that energy ministers agreed to consider additional legislative reform, and that this was having a look at options to enable new gas and electricity contract market-monitoring powers as an immediate priority for introduction into the South Australian parliament, to ensure that the Australian Energy Regulator has the full information and visibility it needs.

On 2 August 2022 a consultation paper was released on amending the Australian Energy Regulator Wholesale Market Monitoring and Reporting Framework as currently set out in the National Electricity Law. Submissions closed for this on 25 August 2022. On 24 February 2023 the Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council agreed to expedite a package of measures expanding the Australian Energy Regulator's gas and electricity market-monitoring powers, which the Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council regard as an essential function for a well-regulated and stable east coast electricity market. This group has a view to passing this legislation as soon as feasible.

On 13 April 2023, the draft National Energy Laws Amendment (Wholesale Market Monitoring) Bill and consultation paper were released for a three-week public consultation, with submissions closing on 4 May 2023. As with previous changes to the national energy laws, South Australia is the lead jurisdiction. As such, the convention is that, as the legislation has been approved by the Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council prior to it being introduced in the Parliament of South Australia, it receives bipartisan support.

The Minister for Energy and Mining introduced the Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Wholesale Market Monitoring) Bill into this house on 15 November 2023. This bill seeks to amend both the National Electricity Law, set out in the schedule to the National Electricity (South Australia) Act 1996, and the National Gas Law, set out in the schedule to the National Gas (South Australia) Act 2008.

As mentioned previously, in February 2023, the Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council resolved to fast-track a series of reforms designed to expand the Australian Energy Regulator's gas and electricity market monitoring powers. These powers were described as an essential function for a well-regulated and stable east coast electricity market. These reforms were considered by the ministerial council as imperative for the Australian Energy Regulator to be able to effectively monitor and proactively identify challenges to the energy market.

At present, the Australian Energy Regulator is limited in its ability to assess competition in the wholesale energy markets due to a range of reasons, including restrictions around obtaining and using information, a lack of visibility over electricity market contracts and the lack of a comprehensive gas market monitoring role. As such, the proposed reforms include changes to the National Electricity Law and National Gas Law, with the aim to:

1. remove provisions that currently limit the Australian Energy Regulator's ability to effectively fulfil its electricity wholesale market monitoring function;

2. empower the Australian Energy Regulator to monitor contract markets;

3. create an explicit wholesale market monitoring function for gas; and

4. create additional requirements for the Australian Energy Regulator in connection with its extended wholesale market monitoring powers.

The reforms to the Australian Energy Regulator's wholesale market monitoring and reporting function aim to provide the AER with the visibility it needs to identify and investigate issues in a timely and well-informed manner and make an ongoing assessment of whether these markets are operating competitively. They are also envisaged to enable the Australian Energy Regulator to better monitor electricity and gas markets to understand the drivers of volatility and the level of liquidity in the market to better anticipate and provide information in the event of future crises.

The proposed enhanced information-gathering powers are also intended to equip the Australian Energy Regulator to monitor the progress of the energy markets as they adapt and innovate as part of Australia's energy transition. These reforms are intended to enable the AER to provide information that can inform more targeted and effective long-term policy and regulatory reform.

This bill does affect us on the national scene, and we have to regulate it from our state first as the lead legislator in this process. It certainly affects what happens between this state, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania because we are all interconnected. Down the track, when EnergyConnect gets finalised—it is taking a while; we have the towers on this side under our proposal to build that 800-megawatt line, connection through New South Wales from Robertstown, and this will complement the Hayward interconnector, which is 500 megawatts, and the Murraylink, which is a 200-megawatt underground line from the Riverland through to Victoria.

I believe that EnergyConnect will be vital into the future. I have talked about it here before. There is obviously a range of electricity generating still going on in this country. We notice—as coal was demonised—coal stations going and maintenance not even being carried out. The banks don't look nicely on coal-fired power, but the simple fact is that it is still part of the energy mix to keep the lights on in this state and in this country. Even though we do not have a coal-fired plant here, we certainly import some coal-fired power from the two connections we have through to Victoria, and obviously that connects into New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania.

We certainly have a broad mix of generation. Obviously we have had lots of gas over the years. I have mentioned here many times that I used to work in the gas fields 40-odd years ago. It is a great industry and I really commend Santos for their project on carbon capture and storage, which will be a game changer in the Cooper Basin.

The work that goes on in the gas industry both here and interstate—some not so much interstate with bans on various programs in Bass Strait and that kind of thing—where the country has sourced a lot of energy and power in the past, is to be commended because gas will be a part of the mix for many years to come, probably at least 30 years most pundits say. We need to keep that in mind as the transition fuel because you do need base load power to keep everything running. Yes, we do have some great renewable resources as far as wind and solar goes, though I am a bit concerned that when these projects come to end of life they become waste products—the turbines and the panels. We do have many hundreds of megawatts of this type of generation across South Australia, and that has caused some controversy at times and still does.

It is fascinating if you have an electorate where one of these projects may or may not be going ahead, whether it is solar or wind. On the different levels of discussion that are had there are quite a few solar farms through the seat of Hammond. About 200 megawatts have gone in at Tailem Bend and there are various solar farms when you head out towards Palmer and Mannum. There have been other proposals that have not got off the ground or have not happened yet for whatever reason, but there are also some wind farming proposals around the place, and certainly Tilt. They have made some adjustments to the turbines they want to put in around Palmer, and that is going through its approval process. We will see whether or not that gets the go ahead.

Especially with wind turbines usually you get a couple of camps: the ones that don't mind looking at wind turbines and those that are staunchly against them. It is a bit like solar farms on some land. As much as it takes up land, it is a negotiated lease fee between the landholder and the company wanting to generate the electricity, but then there are other people who decide they do not want any part of it.

The simple fact is that we need to generate our electricity from somewhere. Since all the stations up in Port Augusta got bowled over, we lost about 500 megawatts in one or two fell swoops. We needed to enhance the energy we lost there, mainly with gas as far as base load power is concerned and, obviously, as we have heard from other members here today, a lot of rooftop solar, a lot of industrial solar.

I have my farmhouse at Coomandook and it is magnificent. You can only put a five-kilowatt amount of panels on the end of a single-wire return line but it is still pretty handy for keeping the power bills down. I know there has been conversation today about the early legislation where I think you were paid back about 44¢ a unit for your electricity and that has now decreased to 5¢ or 6¢.

At the end of the day, I look on that as a bonus because it is about what you can run during the day—the total opposite of what we used to do in the old days, I will say, where you wanted to run everything at night on J tariff. Now you certainly want to have everything cranked up during the day to utilise that solar power so that you are not paying—I will probably get this number wrong—the 38¢ or 42¢, or whatever it is, a unit with the price that you would have to pay for that power to come in.

I think I put my unit on in the second round, I will call it, not the first round of solar when the 44¢ per unit availability was on the line, and we legislated that here through the house. I think a unit then of a similar size to what I purchased was $20,000 with that early round and I think what we spent next time was about $12,000. They are remarkably cheaper now; they are probably down to $4,000 or something like that for a similar size. Then there is battery capability to go in if people want to go down the path of adding batteries.

It has been interesting—and I have mentioned this before—that the energy minister, Minister Koutsantonis, used to be a fan of EnergyConnect until we made it ours. It is odd because this will really enhance the use of our renewables, our 60 to 70 per cent of renewable generation in this state, so that when we have that oversupply of renewable energy we can export it straight into New South Wales, which then hooks up with the eastern market of Australia through Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and obviously Tasmania.

When we have to, we can import power for a range of needs, whether it is hydro in Tasmania, coal in Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria, or whether it is gas-fired. The beauty of it is that exchange of electricity and those options that will happen will assist us into the future to keep the lights on, which is something the Labor Party did not do in their previous term of government, in September 2016 when all the lights went out in this state. We were sitting in this place, and we were one of the only places to have power because we had emergency generation that kicked in.

It was a very odd day. I was stunned that the whole state could go out, but it did. It was a massive disruption. I think it was taking people up to an hour and a half to go across the square mile of the City of Adelaide. Quite frankly, for those of us who were in Adelaide for the week, it was best just to stay put here. That should not have happened and we must do all we can to make sure it never happens again.

As I have said, as we need to retain gas supplies into the future, we must work with companies like Santos to make sure that they can do the searching, the drilling and the work needed to extract that gas because we will need it for a long time into the future. As I indicated, I really commend their carbon capture and storage, which is coming online very soon, and that will utilise depleted gas wells, especially close to the Moomba plant.

We have heard a lot about how good hydrogen is going to be. I struggle with the amount of renewable energy that is going to have to be generated. I have heard that up to 16,000 wind turbines will have to be built in the pastoral area around Whyalla and there will be thousands of acres of solar panels to generate power that will probably have a 4:1 loss ratio. To go into hydrogen, I am assuming it will utilise hydrogen as a battery essentially, but to have such a huge power loss to make green steel and other products, I just worry that so much power will be lost—but we will see. When we had the briefing from university professors, I was concerned that they were not sure how it would work—that really did concern me. We need to make sure we do all we can to have energy security in this state.

Certainly, another plank we need to look forward to into the future is nuclear energy. I have spoken about that. Our federal team, with Peter Dutton, has announced that moving forward if nuclear came on board probably the most likely site for a small modular reactor would be at Port Augusta. That makes sense. Everything was there before, as far as the coal plant and all the transmission lines that radiate across this state, because we do have some long leads, obviously. We are a small population compared with the other states. I think it is something we really need to look at.

I witnessed a lot of this when I went to England, France and Finland about eight or 10 years ago and had a look at what is going on there. I saw the canola crops out in full flower right up to the fence of a nuclear power plant. I saw towns in Finland competing to see if they were the ones that got the contracts to build the nuclear power plants and I also saw the research that is being done on putting nuclear spent rods under the ground, which would be a lot safer than the many hundreds of tonnes, probably thousands of tonnes, right across the world that are sitting on the surface.

Here at home at the minute, we have to make sure we get things right to make sure that we can keep the lights on and that we can do it economically. There are people suffering under this Peter Malinauskas government when we have seen power prices go up for households by $696 and for small business by $1,288. We must do better to make sure that people can thrive and their businesses can thrive.

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