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Energy suppliers want national coal plan

AAP logoAAP 16/11/2016 Kaitlyn Offer

Energy prices will be volatile and supply undermined unless Australia creates a national plan to transition away from coal, a Senate committee has been told.

Electricity provider AGL Energy said on Thursday the lack of a consistent plan was impeding investment in new infrastructure, which meant when ageing coal-fired power stations such as Hazelwood in Victoria closed there were no alternatives coming through.

"There's a holding back of the necessary investment because of uncertainty," AGL head of government and community relations Anthony Chappel told the committee sitting in Melbourne.

"Business won't invest in a big new plant if there's not clarity."

The sudden closure of plants such as the Northern Power Station in South Australia and Hazelwood in early 2017 has "a much greater impact on customers in the short term", Mr Chappel said.

"The impact on the pricing of future electricity prices is dramatic, the volatility is severe and the disruption and undermining of stable electricity pricing environments which large manufacturing and other businesses need to be competitive, that also occurs," he said.

Supplier Energy Australia submitted there'd be a tougher impact on consumers if the transition from coal remained market-driven.

Executive Mark Collette told the committee to replace the energy from coal and gas with renewables would involve a build of about 75,000 megawatts.

"That's about 500 renewable power stations and if it was all wind, just to give a sense of scale, it's two or three turbines a day every day for thirty years," he said, estimating at current costs the investment would be between $100 and $150 billion.

"National policy ensures we send the right signals to both close and build energy assets at the lowest cost," Mr Collette said.

Industry body the Australian Energy Council also called for a national framework.

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