Opinion | Region's voice in power debate crucial | Jonathan Vandervoort

The topic of electricity prices is grabbing plenty of media attention and is a focus for our elected representatives from the Prime Minister and the Premier down. 

What seems to be missing from the debate is the equally concerning issue of security of long-term base load electricity supply.

The Chamber recently hosted Professor Mary O’Kane AC, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, at a Hunter First forum where members were vocal in their concerns regarding energy security and increasing costs, and rightly so.

Professor O’Kane gave CEOs, MDs and directors of Hunter First member organisations a comprehensive briefing about the Energy Security Taskforce’s recently released initial report, and a summary of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market Expert Panel – the Finkel Review.

Earlier this year the Hunter saw interruptions in power supply first-hand. This is widely regarded as unsatisfactory. When faced with such uncertainty and future risks, sustainable business growth is hampered and negative impacts are felt by the whole community.

There is much debate about technology and a transition to alternative energy supply as well as the question around potential for High Efficiency Low Emission technology power stations using thermal coal.

To protect and nurture the growth of Hunter manufacturing, the solution has to provide the base load power our community currently needs. Power interruptions create blackouts that can force the closure of industry. For the aluminium industry this happens in two to three hours, not days or weeks, and it is not reversible. 

Research and debate has to consider the needs of business and access right now to an affordable supply of base load power from a constant, reliable source. This is of paramount importance in building and sustaining strong and diverse economies. Energy security and reliability are fundamentally important to all businesses and consumers. Australian businesses will remain operational and globally competitive only with the right solution in place.

We are committed to engaging with stakeholders to ensure the region’s views on energy security and pricing are acknowledged and that the needs of business and community in the Hunter are given due recognition in the power debate through state and federal governments.

Jonathan Vandervoort, Hunter Business Chamber President