Power call’s ‘boost’ for factory workers

ENERGY: Corio refinery boss Thys Heyns.

By Luke Voogt

Geelong manufacturers have welcomed recommendations for new power plants and phasing out solar schemes amid fears the city could lose 2500 jobs.

ACCC released a national energy blueprint this week following Indy reports last November that rising power costs threatened a quarter of Geelong manufacture jobs.

The blueprint’s recommendations would help protect local businesses from price hikes, according to Geelong Manufacturing Council (GMC).

“GMC members have expressed their concern about the impacts of electricity costs, energy regulation and pricing transparency on business,” GMC’s Emmy McKenzie said.

“Rising energy prices have a direct effect on the competitiveness of our members.”

The recommendations would allow Geelong manufacturers to grow and remain competitive in future, Ms McKenzie said.

The operator of Geelong’s oil refinery also welcomed the blueprint.

Viva Energy refining manager Thys Heyns supported “any plans” to ensure pricing remained competitive.

“Energy prices have been one of the few natural advantages we have historically had at the refinery against international competition,” he said.

“As a major user of electricity in Victoria, the supply and pricing of electricity is critical to our business, so we would welcome any developments that will improve electricity affordability.”

ACCC released 56 final recommendations on Wednesday following its inquiry into the energy market commencing in March 2017.

“The national electricity market is largely broken and needs to be reset,” the commission’s chair Rod Sims said.

Commercial and industrial customers’ electricity costs would decrease by 26 per cent under the recommendations, ACCC estimated.

Electricity prices now threatened heavy users, like mining and manufacturing companies, where previously they had been a relative advantage, Mr Sims said.

ACCC estimated its recommendations to better regulate retailers would save households between 20 and 25 per cent on their electricity bill, or around $290-$415 per year.

“Some of the most vulnerable in our community are forced to struggle through freezing winters and scorching summers,” Mr Sims said.

Australia’s 2.2 million small to medium businesses could save an average of 24 per cent under the recommendations, Mr Sims said.

Among ACCC’s recommendations were investment in generation for “new players” and limiting companies with 20 per cent or higher market share from acquiring more generation capacity.

The commission also recommended State Governments fund solar feed-in-tariffs and phasing out Australia’s small scale renewable energy scheme, saving non-solar consumers $20-$90 per year.

Energy price rises were a “life or death matter” for a quarter of manufacturers nationwide according to Australian Industry Group’s policy advisor Tennant Reed.

Mr Reed told the Indy last November the figure would likely apply for Geelong’s 10,207-strong manufacturing workforce.

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