Some of the biggest employers and most intensive energy users in the country are so concerned about unreliable power supply in the southern states they are reconsidering investment, in a move that would have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of jobs.
The warning comes as the Alcoa aluminium plant in Portland faces increased risk of closure after a major power outage in South Australia and Victoria on Thursday slashed the manufacturing capacity of the plant at the same time it is being crippled with increased energy costs.
Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told The Weekend Australian that, in the wake of the latest major blackout, state governments must urgently address the “disaster” by recognising the importance of getting stable baseload generation to businesses. “Big employers are legitimately wary and concerned about the implications of their investment,” he said. “These are some of the most energy-intensive users in the country.”
The latest energy crisis, at the start of summer, sets up a stoush between Malcolm Turnbull and Labor premiers at next Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra.
The Prime Minister yesterday slammed “Left ideology that says somehow or other we can pursue these enormous renewable targets”. Mr Turnbull took particular aim at South Australia, saying it was the Weatherill government’s responsibility to “keep the lights on” and warned a “lack of reliability” was a problem in seeking to attract industry.
Jay Weatherill hit back late yesterday, accusing Mr Turnbull of being dishonest and promising a showdown at COAG. “The Prime Minister must stand up to the right wing of his party and reject its pro-coal agenda,” he said.
Federal Industry Minister Greg Hunt yesterday blamed the Victorian Labor government for abandoning energy security with a strong push to renewables, putting industry in that state also at risk.
The Australian Workers Union warned yesterday that the Alcoa plant, which employs 680 workers and indirectly supports 2000 jobs in Victoria’s oldest regional town, may never fully recover as the company took one of the smelter’s two potlines out of action, reducing its manufacturing capacity by 60 per cent.