As many Australians workers feel the cold bite of winter, they’re struggling to understand why they might be facing blackouts and power cuts while trying to stay warm.
This is a country full to the brim with resources to power the nation, isn’t it?
Added to the brutal rise in the cost of energy, the chaos surrounding our national energy supply is another burden workers are carrying.
How did it come to this? That’s a question that the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) wants answered. The ETU is calling for an independent review of the entire National Electricity Market (NEM).
It follows on from decades of privatisation of energy companies, a decade of failure on energy policy under the former Liberal Government, and culminated in the decision of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) to take control of our national energy supplies as the prospect of blackouts and power cuts threatened to cause chaos across the country.
On the Job spoke with the ETU acting national secretary Michael Wright. He said the union had warned about the NEM’s failures.
“The ETU has been sounding the alarm about the NEM for years. This vindicates our long-held concerns that the market is broken and beyond repair.”
“It’s a story that’s at least nine years, but perhaps 30 years in the making. The immediate issue is that the former federal government’s failure to invest in anything has led us to the situation where there are no quick solutions to get us out the problem”.
Wright said that the previous Coalition Government’s resistance to meaningful transition of the economy to a carbon neutral footprint is responsible for the energy crisis .
“For the nine years of that government there was a concerted push in capital markets away from fossil fuels as a source of electricity. There’s environmental reasons – because climate change is real – but it’s also about investors”.
Wright points out that shift to renewables requires a fundamental overhaul of our energy networks and infrastructure.
“We haven’t been able to harness the renewable energy that’s been coming online to its full extent, because of the decaying grid,” he said.
Wright also took aim at the private suppliers who turn a profit from providing energy to Australian homes and businesses.
“Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen the private generators in the market, really playing chicken with a blackout. They’ve been withholding power. They’ve been ramping their plants up and down. What we’re now seeing is that those coal fired generators were never designed to be used like that. So these generators are starting to break,” he said.
Wright warned that the neglect of the system has made the inevitable transition of Australia’s power grid that much harder.
“The transition to renewables is going to be all the more helter-skelter which is no good for the grid, no good for workers, no good for the community.”
“To be honest, it’s almost at the point where we need to start again, we certainly need to look at the National Electricity objective. We need to get consideration for workers built in, but also for communities,” Wright said.
“We can’t be sitting around for another three years whilst the climate continues to worsen. We do need a Royal Commission. Whilst that is warranted we just don’t have the timeframe.”
“We need an expert review, someone who can take a cold, clear look at the situation, see what’s working, what’s not and provide the fixes that we need to do.”