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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Fact over Fiction: What's Really Driving Up Electricity Bills

There's no doubt electricity bills are increasing. My family just got advice from our provider that our grid usage charges will be going up by 12%. So what's driving this? Climate change denialists would like us to think it's renewable energy. But as with so many of their arguments, it's crucial to dissect the facts from the fiction. There are four key reasons that electricity prices are rising at present. None of them relate directly to renewables. In fact, renewables are a means to achieving energy independence and avoiding energy price increases.

The major driver of increased electricity prices in Australia is the surge in wholesale electricity costs. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, wholesale electricity prices are spiking largely due to global increases in coal and gas prices. These increases are flowing on to consumers as costs are passed down by energy retailers.

The second reason for Australia's spiraling electricity costs is our reliance on aging coal-fired power plants. Many of these plants are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate. The Australian Energy Market Operator has highlighted that decommissioning of old coal plants is outpacing integration of new renewable energy projects and storage solutions. This mismatch is creating supply gaps which add to price pressures. The anti-renewables lobby doesn't want to hear this, but the solution to supply gaps is to scale up renewables which are the cheapest and fastest source of new generation capacity.

The third reason for escalating energy prices in Australia relates to global energy markets. The Invasion of Ukraine by Russia sent shockwaves through global coal and gas markets, driving prices to unprecedented levels. Australia's interconnectedness with global markets means these price shocks are being felt domestically. This volatility underscores the urgent need for us to diversify our energy sources, build domestic capability, and reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels. We have more wind and sun than anywhere else in the world. We don't need to be dependent on Russia or the Middle East.

Finally, despite being one of the world's largest gas producers, Australia is allowing nearly all of its gas to be exported. This export-driven focus is exacerbating domestic shortages, making it harder for electricity generators to access affordable gas. This is driving up electricity prices because gas-fired power plants still play a role in our energy mix, particularly at peak times.

The Benefits of Renewable Energy

While the transition to renewable energy presents some challenges, solar and wind offer the lowest production costs and the potential to enhance our energy independence and security. Renewable energy and battery storage solutions are the fastest and lowest-cost means of stabilising and lowering energy costs. However, policy uncertainty created by the climate wars in Australia has stymied their development. The anti-renewables lobby is currently throwing up nuclear as its latest diversionary tactic. This is spooking global investors and reducing investment in least-cost energy solutions.

For many Australian families, investing in rooftop solar panels and home batteries has proven to be a game-changer. These systems not only reduce reliance on the grid but also provide a buffer against energy price volatility. It's also something we can do for ourselves. For instance, my four-person household, equipped with rooftop solar and battery storage, saw our last bill result in a $300 credit. After running our home and charging our two electric cars for three months, our energy provider paid us $300. This shows how at individual and family levels, renewable energy can protect us from the unpredictability of traditional energy markets and help us achieve energy security.

So, in separating the facts from the fiction, the main thing to remember is that renewables aren't driving up electricity prices. Coal and gas prices, the war in Ukraine, Australia's aging coal-fired power stations, and the climate wars are. Renewable energy is the solution, not the cause of energy price volatility.

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