Finkel Review gets thumbs up from the sustainability sector

By Lauren Davis
Tuesday, 13 June, 2017

Finkel Review gets thumbs up from the sustainability sector

Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel last week unveiled his blueprint to optimise the National Electricity Market as a world-class electricity system, and the response from Australian sustainability organisations has been overwhelmingly positive.

The review was originally announced on 7 October 2016, shortly after the September black system event in South Australia. It drew on an extensive public consultation process, with more than 390 public written submissions received and around 450 attendees at public consultation sessions held in five capital cities in early 2017. The review also undertook more than 100 meetings with stakeholders.

Dr Finkel’s blueprint will deliver four key benefits for the electricity system: future reliability, increased security, rewarding consumers and lower emissions. It will apparently use three pillars to achieve these outcomes: orderly transition measures, system planning and stronger governance.

The Energy Efficiency Council has applauded Dr Finkel’s recommendation that governments ramp up efforts on energy efficiency to cut demand, lower consumer bills and reduce the need for investment in new infrastructure. The Finkel Review argues that households, commercial buildings and large industrial energy users can all benefit from cutting energy waste, with benefits for the energy system overall.

Dr Finkel highlights the opportunities to improve gas efficiency in energy-intensive industries, but also notes that energy users are likely to need support to make the transition. Luke Menzel, CEO of the Energy Efficiency Council, agreed that “there is an urgent need for transitional government support for gas efficiency to ensure the viability of manufacturing over the next five years”.

Total Environment Centre thanked Dr Finkel for adopting its recommendation to reinterpret the National Electricity Objective (NEO) to take account of emissions policy. As noted by TEC Energy Market Advocate Mark Byrne, “The Finkel Panel accepted TEC’s proposal for the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) to be given greater direction to consider decarbonisation of the electricity sector in making its decisions.

“Our submission made a clear and compelling case for how the energy market had suffered over the last decade from not internalising carbon costs and not facilitating decentralised and renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and demand management — all of which will benefit consumers,” Byrne continued.

Finally, Snowy Hydro Limited welcomed the support of the Finkel Review of pumped hydro as a key to energy security as it focuses on strengthening reliability in the National Electricity Market.

The report states: “Battery and pumped hydro storage will be able to support a reliable and secure NEM, as and when they are deployed at scale.” As noted by Snowy Hydro CEO Paul Broad, the Snowy 2.0 project will play a key role in both ensuring security of supply and backing up the expected big increase in intermittent supplies — wind and power — in the market.

“Snowy 2.0 fulfils the objectives of the Finkel Review on energy security, in that it can uniquely provide the largest scale and affordable storage of renewable energy to support the reliable and secure power supply that is needed for Australia to move safely to a low-emissions economy,” Broad said.

“The Finkel Review rightly points to the importance of pumped hydro as an essential back-up to intermittent wind and power to protect consumers and business, and ensure we don’t face the catastrophic supply failures that we have seen in South Australia.”

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