ARTICLE: A nation like Australia should aspire to nothing less than world’s best electricity network

Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel wrote an article titled “A nation like Australia should aspire to nothing less than world’s best electricity network” to coincide with the launch of public consultations for the Independent Review into the future security of the National Electricity Market. The article was published in The Adelaide Advertiser on 26 January 2017.

SOUTH Australians are confronting the electricity challenge we all face.

Members of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market recognise this and on Monday we will be in Adelaide to open wide ranging consultations on the future of this market.

Electricity has never been more central to our lives than it is in 2017 – it powers our computers, our smart phones and our fixed appliances. No sector of the economy can function without it.

New technologies are changing the way electricity is generated, stored and shared. We know we have to keep pace.

At the same time, we all share a belief that the electricity network should be better – that a nation like Australia should aspire to nothing less than world’s best.

And make no mistake, we have strengths in this country that should give us optimism about what we can achieve.

As Chief Scientist, I am well aware of the breadth and talent in our universities, research agencies and industries. We can capitalise on our science and our skills base to rise to the challenge that reforming the electricity network presents.
Storms wreaked havoc on South Australia, contributing to a statewide blackout last year.

But first, we need to hear from South Australians and the rest of Australia about the situation today, and the better system we now have the opportunity to build.

It is not for me to tell Australians what they want. It is for Australians to decide what our electricity network should provide, and then for the Review Panel of the National Electricity Market (myself and four others) to recommend how the pieces can best be arranged.

This is an important window to think and act. All sides of politics, at all levels of government, have made energy a priority.

In October I was asked by the Council of Australian Governments to review the security of the National Electricity Market. In December, my colleagues and I delivered the ­review’s preliminary report.

Every minister, premier and business leader I have met approaches this mission in the knowledge that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity for reform.

The preliminary report sets out key observations on the forces driving up prices and confronting the network’s resilience. It frames our objective to ensure we have a secure and reliable electricity supply, at an affordable price for all Australian consumers, while meeting our international obligations to lower emissions.

Electricity has never been more central to our lives than it is in 2017, writes Alan Finkel.

It also sets out a series of questions to guide Australians interested in contributing their experience and insight to the challenge of reform. These questions include:

WHAT immediate actions can we take to reduce risks to electricity supply reliability?

HOW do we ensure consumers retain choice and control throughout the transition?

We are coming to Adelaide to pursue these questions and to start the series of public consulta­tions in five state ­capitals.

I invite you to contribute to the Adelaide meeting that will help inform the final blueprint for the electricity market, which we will produce by the middle of the year.

The Adelaide public consultation takes place from 5pm to 7pm on Monday, January 30, at the Crowne Plaza in Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide. To register, visit www.environment.gov.au/energy/national-electricity-market-review