The federal government’s plan to break-up power companies and sell their assets has come under fire from leading business and energy groups.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor is preparing to introduce “big stick” legislation to parliament this week, which would give the treasurer power to force energy companies to sell their assets if they are caught price gouging.
Mr Taylor says the “extraordinary” powers are sorely needed.
He has pointed to company statements and analyst forecasts to claim the three largest companies – AGL, Origin and Energy Australia – will see their collective profits almost double in the five years from 2015 to 2020.
“We are taking a big stick to the energy companies who have delivered profits that are double what they were only a few short years ago,” Mr Taylor told the Nine Network on Monday.
However, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is urging the government to turn its back on the plans.
“The granting of such executive powers would create additional uncertainty within the Australian business sector,” ACCI CEO James Pearson said.
“And may diminish investment in Australia’s electricity sector at the very time that greater long-term investment is required.”
A group including the Australian Energy Council, Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association and the Business Council of Australia have also spoken out against the government’s plan.
The proposed laws “would cast a pall over investment in all sectors of the Australian economy and threaten the economic attractiveness of a country highly reliant on foreign investment,” the group said in a joint statement.
Meanwhile, Labor continues to urge the coalition to reconsider its abandoned National Energy Guarantee.
But the opposition is not having much luck, with the prime minister accusing Labor of using the NEG to mask its 45 per cent emissions reduction target.
As developed by the coalition, the NEG includes 26 per cent target for the electricity sector, while Labor maintains its sector-wide policy of a 45 per cent target.
The energy minister is set to release a shortlist of new power generation projects early next year, with the government leaving the door open to underwrite a new coal-fired power station.
However, the Greens are seeking to prevent taxpayer money going towards such a project, as outlined in draft laws introduced to the lower house on Monday.
Meanwhile, more people than ever are looking to solar to help reduce their power bills, according to the Clean Energy Council.
Two million Australian households now have rooftop solar power systems installed, with Queensland residents leading the way.
Rooftop solar systems act like a mini-power station, helping reduce the strain on the electricity network as well as saving money for consumers, council chief executive Kane Thornton said.
“Homes with rooftop solar installed are saving on average of about $540 per year on their electricity bills,” he said.