‘We can get there’: Power chief backs Labor’s green energy goals

Former AGL chief executive Brett Redman says federal Labor’s ambitious clean-energy target and the rise of the Greens and climate-focused independents are clear signals that the nation must prepare for an earlier shift from fossil fuels to renewable power.

Redman, who left AGL last year and is now leading New South Wales’ high-voltage transmission network operator TransGrid, said the federal election result was the latest “example of how the transition is accelerating”.

TransGrid chief executive Brett Redman says Australia has to be ready to quickly adjust to a greener future.Credit:Louise Kennerley

“The word I find myself using all the time is ‘acceleration’,” he said.

“We see with the likely make-up of parliament – not just Labor but the middle bench with the Greens and the Teals – as representing a pretty strong statement from the majority of Australia that they want to get on with the energy transition and want to move to a renewables future.”

It comes as AGL, the largest Australian power company, has been forced to abandon plans to spin out its power stations into a standalone company that would have continued burning coal until as late as 2045.

AGL and the previous Morrison government had argued against demands from environmentalists to accelerate the closures of coal-fired power stations, warning it could threaten the stability of the grid. However, tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who amassed an 11.3 per cent interest in AGL and waged a successful shareholder campaign to foil its demerger, said the election result underscored that Australians wanted faster climate action.

“This was an election won and lost on climate,” Cannon-Brookes said.

Speaking with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Redman would not comment on when AGL should retire its coal plants. However, he pointed to Origin Energy’s recent announcement it would bring forward the shutdown of Eraring, the country’s biggest coal-fired power generation, as a sign that times were changing.

“Without commenting on any company-specific plans that might be out there I think we have to get ready for a world that is leaning into things happening quicker, not slower,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us … to get ready sooner rather than later.”

Redman said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s aim for Australia’s fossil fuel-dominated power grid to be powered 82 per cent by renewable energy by 2030 and promise to spend $20 billion building new transmission corridors to link up new renewable energy zones to better facilitate the flow of cheap, clean power across the nation, were necessary actions to drive the pace of change required.

The Albanese government is determined to accelerate Australia’s green energy transition.Credit:Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

“We can get there, but we need to get our skates on, and get those ‘superhighways’ built,” he said. “If we do that, there are lots of renewable energy projects out there and an increasing flood of storage projects out there waiting to connect, waiting to get into the market, waiting to drive towards that target.”

Matt Pearce, KPMG’s power and utilities lead, said Australia’s window of opportunity to harness the green energy revolution without threatening power prices was rapidly closing, and the country needed a nationally co-ordinated rollout of new generation and transmission projects,

“It really is about how fast can we work in the next three years,” he said.

“If we can get in front of the transition and put the requisite steps in place, then you won’t get the price shocks … if we are playing catch-up, there could well be.”

The Coalition attacked Labor’s renewable energy plans during the campaign with a claim the new infrastructure investment would add $560 to household energy bills by 2033, saying that energy companies would recoup the full cost from bill-payers.

Labor rejected this, citing modelling by Reputex, which claimed Labor’s plan would shave $378 off electricity prices by 2030 because renewable energy was a cheaper form of power generation than coal, which currently provides about two-thirds of the power in the grid.

Industry research firm Fitch said the ALP’s election win “bodes well for renewables development” in Australia.

“This is a stark shift away from the previous Coalition government that took on a much more sceptical view towards climate change policies and emissions reduction plans, which created policy uncertainties,” it said. “Given the Labor Party’s strong support for the sector, we expect the policy environment to improve going forward, with greater certainties and financial support that will drive up further investments into the sector.”

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