Hands-off approach welcomed

ENERGY industry innovation gurus have welcomed the much-anticipated Finkel report’s blueprint to create a “desperately needed”, non-ideological, stable policy framework with minimum government intervention that will allow industry to get cracking on what it does best – innovate.
Hands-off approach welcomed Hands-off approach welcomed Hands-off approach welcomed Hands-off approach welcomed Hands-off approach welcomed

Miranda Taylor.

National Energy resources Australia CEO - former Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association director skills and safety Miranda Taylor - hailed Dr Alan Finkel's recommendation that the country adopt "evidence-based regulatory regimes to manage the risk of individual gas projects on a case by case basis".
 
Dr Finkel's report added that this should include an outline on how governments will adopt the means to ensure that landholders receive fair compensation.
 
South Australia has announced that landowners whose property overlies an unconventional gas field that is brought into production will get 10% of royalties.
 
In Queensland, landholder and resource companies must negotiate a legally-binding conduct and compensation agreement that outlines compensation for landowners for the effects and impacts of authorised activities.
 
The Sunshine State has also established a Land Access Ombudsman to deal with disputes between landholders and operators in relation to those agreements.
 
The report appeared to take aim at the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory which have effectively banned unconventional gas drilling.
 
"While it is vital that regulatory regimes are in place to ensure community safety and environmental protections, and to protect landholders' economic interests, regulatory restrictions not based on evidence have long-term detrimental impacts on gas exploration and development and disrupt the flow of gas," the report said.
 
The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer's independent review into CSG activities in the state found that CSG extraction and related technologies were mature and that Australia is well equipped to manage their applications.
 
After stakeholders advised the panel that those regulatory restrictions have exacerbated the current supply tightness, Dr Finkel's report said the interconnected nature of the east coast gas market meant states' decisions made in isolation had national consequences on multiple markets, including the National Electricity Market.
 
 "Any disruptions to the flow of investment will impact the availability of gas for the domestic market, leading to higher prices and consequent risk to the economy and jobs," the report said.
 
Thus the report recommended that "governments should avoid blanket restrictions and bans on gas projects and instead encourage the safe exploration and development of the industry".
 
"Evidence-based regulatory regimes enable the risks of individual gas projects to be manage4d on a case-by-case basis," the report added. 
 

Freedom to innovate

 
A number of submissions to the review supported that approach, and Taylor said NERA was providing a framework for "thinking differently" about technological opportunity, sustainability and a low-emissions future in the energy resources sector, to help shape regulatory reform and productivity improvements.
 
"A lower emissions future, and the role all sources of energy can play in achieving that, is widely accepted by the energy resources sector, just as the sector has acknowledged that the fast adoption of technology and innovation has become key to ensuring productivity and sustainability," she said. 
 
"Improving engagement with communities and stakeholders and transparency around industry's performance are also critical to the energy resources sector future, and we welcome Dr Finkel's recommendations around improving access to transparent and informative gas industry performance data, and fair compensation to landholders."
 
The hands-off approach that the Finkel report recommended for governments was suggested in the immediate lead-up to its release in Perth by Tim Bray, CEO of Fremantle data analytics start-up Ecocentric, who said industry needed to stop blaming government and look within for innovative solutions to energy development and distribution issues.
 
The South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy's submission emphasised the need for periodical regional assessments of system security, coupled with "technology neutral" policies governed by appropriate regulatory authorities to prevent systems failures and ensure a robust and affordable system.
 
Impacts of reduced system security have been widely felt by SA's resources and energy sectors, with estimates placing the impact in the hundreds of millions of dollars. 
 
For SACOME members, these impacts have exceeded $200 million over the past 12 months.
 

Damaging failure

 
Deloitte national leader, energy and resources Michael Rath said the "politics of power" had damaged both Australia's competitiveness and standing as an energy nation. 
 
"The market needs clarity and consistency of policy that provides the necessary framework for an orderly transition from an old and tiring generation fleet to a more modern and innovative set of technologies," Rath said. 
 
"The Finkel Review provides a great opportunity to step back and focus on what is and isn't working in Australia's energy market. 
 
"There's a need for clear-headed, holistic planning across the entire energy supply chain, one that takes account of all the interdependencies and doesn't treat markets like gas and electricity as separate entities. 
 
"We need to acknowledge the energy market is in transition and that renewables, gas and base load coal will be part of our ongoing fuel mix as we move to a low emissions environment. They are all part of the same ecosystem.
 
"This transition pathway will provide both an opportunity to embrace wholesale price certainty and enable an innovative Australia to build a new set of capabilities."
 
He said Deloitte hoped that, with bipartisan political support, the Finkel Review would be able achieve that outcome.
 
GE Australia, New Zealand & PNG Geoff Culbert also urged Australia's political leaders to adopt the proposals and stick with them for the long term - "because if they do, industry will meet the challenge".
 
"The technologies necessary to implement the Finkel blueprint already exist. All we need is stable policy and companies like GE will invest to secure Australia's energy future," he said.

 

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