On 8 April 2015, the Federal Government released the long-awaited Energy White Paper. The White Paper makes a number of key recommendations:
- Increasing Australia’s production of energy and energy sources
This is a dominant theme of the Paper. The Paper focuses on the gas market, and expresses support for infrastructure investment to capitalise on gas resources. Fossil fuel and uranium energy sources are supported in favour of renewable energy sources.
- Adopting a “technology-neutral” approach
The Paper considers that the energy industry itself is best placed to encourage innovation. The White Paper does not outline incentives to facilitate uptake of renewable energy options, but does note an intention to invest in carbon capture technology to drive down the price of CCS approaches.
- Increasing competition and the privatisation of energy assets
The Paper concludes that increased competition will bring down energy prices, and privatisation will assist in increasing competition.
- Removing “unnecessary regulatory barriers”
Consistent with the rhetoric of the one-stop shop policy, there is little detail provided on what regulation is considered “unnecessary”.
- Encouraging investment
The Paper concludes that “streamlined” regulation and increased certainty will encourage development and investment in the energy sectors. In particular, the Paper proposes harmonisation of regulation and policy across the national energy sector as a key priority for the COAG Energy Council.
- Informing consumers
The Paper encourages efforts to improve awareness and help consumers to make informed choices about energy suppliers and energy use.
The White Paper has been criticised by a number of prominent economists, including Ross Garnaut, for its failure to address climate change as a driver of energy policy, to capitalise on Australia’s significant renewable energy resources or to rigorously assess options to achieve emission reduction targets for 2020 and beyond.
** EDO Tasmania thanks volunteer, Mikala Jayatilaka, for her assistance in reviewing the Energy White Paper