CANBERRA, AAP – Rapidly overhauling Australia’s largest electricity generator and biggest carbon emitter will bring jobs “far and wide” in rural Victoria and NSW, the billionaire bidder for AGL Energy says.
But Environment Minister Sussan Ley on Tuesday said she did not want rapid decarbonisation to be at the expense of everyday standards of living and a carefully mapped out transition plan.
“You have to be careful about saying energy prices won’t go up because unless you have price parity with current energy technologies, they will,” she told ABC.
“We do have a $21 billion road map that leads us to low emissions technologies.”
Mike Cannon-Brookes, who made his fortune with tech company Atlassian, says Australia can have the cheapest power prices in the world using renewable energy sources and storage.
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“We don’t need to invent new technology. We will go do it,” he told 9News.
“They should be big fans of the plan.”
“We’re doing what the government has asked us to do: provide replacement capacity, bring $20 billion in private capital to do that and reliably bring people’s bills down.”
The Australian tech billionaire also rejected criticism from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg that the plan would cause prices to spike and make the grid unstable, as occurred when the Hazelwood brown coal plant suddenly closed in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
“He’s entirely correct. He’s just leaving out a few facts,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
Energy firms now need to give a minimum three-and-a-half year notice of closure, and technology has advanced and become cheaper.
“All he said about reliability and price is exactly what we are planning to do. That is our plan. We are in 100 per cent agreement,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
A leading infrastructure manager says the clean energy power play for AGL heralds a major shift in the tempo of Australia’s energy transition.
“As for AGL, it is now in play irrespective of the outcome of this particular takeover bid,” David Scaysbrook, co-founder and managing partner of Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, told AAP.
Together with the accelerated closure of Origin’s Eraring, Australia’s biggest coal-fired generator, the nation now has an opportunity to move “beyond the quarry” into value-add industries, he said.
AGL Energy on Monday rejected an opening bid by Brookfield and Grok Ventures, the private investment company of Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes, who want to fast-track Australia’s exit from coal-fired power.
The consortium remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached with the AGL board and shareholders.
“Cannon-Brookes is certainly not short on ambition and new ideas as to how to maximise that hugely valuable opportunity,” Mr Scaysbrook said.
“Just like Andrew Forest at Fortescue, they are both dreaming way bigger than our political leaders.”