I would like to make a contribution to the Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Wholesale Market Monitoring) Bill. I think it is very important. I think most members of this place understand that we do need national energy laws that work and that are transparent, and we would like to think that South Australia will be the lead jurisdiction. The Australian Energy Regulator is limited. There are restrictions for obtaining and using information, a lack of visibility over electricity contract markets and a lack of comprehensive gas market monitoring.

I have a very good friend who is a retail provider, and he has given me a much clearer understanding of the current state of play. Of course, the proposed reforms are aiming to remove provisions limiting AER's ability to effectively monitor the electricity wholesale market, to empower the AER to monitor contract markets and to create an explicit wholesale market monitoring function, particularly for gas. The reforms give AER the visibility it needs to investigate issues promptly. At the end of the day, it is about making better ongoing assessments of competition within the marketplace and also helping understand the drivers of volatility and level of liquidity.

To anticipate and provide information in future crises, reforms should allow for effective long-term energy policy that protects South Australians. Whether it is an everyday house, a small business or a large business, it does affect the flow-down. The costs, particularly by the large businesses and the large conglomerates, are felt by all. What we cannot pass down is the cost of a household power bill. That is what is hurting everyday households. That is what is hurting everyday cost-of-living pressures that South Australians are dealing with.

Back at home, where I live in Chaffey, we do need efficient and affordable energy, because that is the critical element for attracting investment. For many years, the main component within a small business has been the cost of labour, but in today's environment we are seeing that the cost of electricity is the number one cost in a day-to-day business operation. Obviously, extensive solar opportunities are helping some individuals.

I will get to clean energy, renewable energy, in just a moment. There is some truth in how we do need to have clean, renewable energy, yes, but currently, with the transition from coal, from gas and from traditional forms of power generation, we are now paying the price for that conversion into renewables.

Obviously, regional communities are facing unique challenges; they are more heavily restricted, but remember that they cannot grow without reliability and they cannot invest with that detailed information. They cannot invest with a transparent understanding of what the cost of power will mean to their business. We must understand that infrastructure investment needs to be addressed more proactively and supply needs to be more reliable.

I will just touch on some of the larger power users in my electorate. Obviously, being a food-producing electorate we have to pump a lot of water and we also have to pack a lot of fruit. To do that takes a lot of power. I am seeing a number of those businesses, whether they be larger or smaller, reacting to looking at ways that they can be more efficient in how to drive the cost of their power bill down.

Speaking to a number of the owners and proprietors today, we have Venus Citrus, which is a citrus packhouse at Loxton. Their power bill is about $167,000 a year but they have installed a significant amount of solar and batteries. They are also now getting to the point where they are having to install all sorts of new technology with LED lighting, making sure that they sensor light all of their infrastructure so that the light follows the movement in their shed. That is helping to bring prices down at every opportunity.

The Central Irrigation Trust is the largest irrigation trust in South Australia and probably one of the largest in Australia. They pump about 110 gigalitres of water to I think just over 10 districts at a cost of about $5 million. To help with their business model they are now in joint power contracts in a cooperative power negotiating capacity with other businesses, so they are all buying wholesale power to reduce their power costs as well as installing panels and batteries. They are now actively involved in all of those power-generation committees and advisory boards doing everything they can to advise and to give people an understanding of what it means to their business with these spiralling power costs.

Mitolo Family Farms is a broadacre horticulture family farm, and they grow and pack mostly potatoes and onions. It is a significant business. Their power price is $8 million a year. They have looked at ways that they would like to reduce the cost of power, but they are growing with the market trends and putting more and more land under potatoes and onions for the growing consumer demand.

With the cost of living, people are now consuming more carbohydrates; they are eating more potatoes and more onions because it is a cheaper form of food. People are restricting themselves from eating red meat, they are restricting themselves from eating seafood, they are restricting themselves from eating food sources that are more expensive. So, as a family farm, Mitolo have many sites—not just in the Riverland. The majority of their irrigation is in the Riverland, Mallee and Lower Murray, and they are now looking at ways to implement power cost-saving ways, particularly with the takeover by the Canadian Pension fund.

Accolade Wines is quite interesting as they use about 7,000 kVA a year. We are not putting a price on that because they pay for their power whether they use it or not, and that is a distinct disadvantage to that business model. They have wholesale contracts. They are a business—they are a big winery, one of the biggest wineries in the country. That just shows you the vulnerability of a food or beverage provider. They have a season, and during that season they are flat out and have the meter spinning as fast as it will go. When things slow down through the cooler months and the winemaking slows right down, they are still paying the same power price because it is an agreed market price.

The Renmark Irrigation Trust pumps about 34 gigalitres of water. They have renewed their contract, and they did it at an opportune time—they came out of contract and went shopping. They were able to reduce their power price from nearly $1 million down to $650,000 just with a five-year contract. If we look at other packhouses, Costa pumps around 25 gigalitres of water, but they also run significant packhouse operations. Their cost for running that business now is a major component of the cost of putting a box of fruit into the market. That cost is, of course, passed on to the consumer and that is adding pressure to day-to-day household prices.

I was speaking to Bill Moularadellis at Kingston Estate. His power price is about $2½ million a year. He is looking at ways of reducing the cost to his business model. His words were, 'If I reduce the demand, it has to reduce the cost in a broader sense.' But the only way he sees fit to reduce the cost of his power is to go off grid by installing solar panels and batteries, and also with a mixture of diesel because that is a cheaper form of energy generation than going into the marketplace and dealing with large amounts of cost.

I have been speaking with a number of businesses. Another family business, Red Mud Foods, has a large farm enterprise and winery. They pay about $100,000 per month for their farm and they pay about $80,000 per month for their winery. That is getting to the point where it is a very fine line as to whether they make money after paying wages and getting product to market. It is all dependent on the commodity price—as it is with many—but it is now becoming very evident. They pump about 9½ gigalitres of water. It shows a very distinct trend of people wanting to buy affordable food but the issues of the producers providing that food to the marketplace are ever-challenging. It is now more evident than ever that it is becoming very expensive to grow food, just as it is very expensive to buy food.

I think some of the vulnerability with the power situation—where it is hurting many businesses—is the contracts. When are those contracts signed? Are they signed at an opportune time? Is the contract signed when they come out of a contract? We have seen in some instances their power prices have doubled from a previous contract that they had signed over a period of time to a new contract. Sometimes, they need that certainty.

They cannot go into the spot market. Many might know that the spot market is highly volatile. The spot market can go from almost zero cost of power to a price that is restrictive to the point where they have to turn their pumps off, they have to shut their sheds down and they have to lay off employees because it is just simply not viable to keep that operation running when we see high spikes in power prices. That is usually when the wind is not blowing, and potentially when the sun is not shining.

I want to touch on a number of contributions by members in this place. We talk about having 75 per cent renewables in South Australia. That is great, but by the same token, the cost of power is a very small part of your bill. If we were to break that down, a number of members on the government benches have said how wonderful it is to have solar panels on your roof and maybe batteries if you are lucky enough, but what they do not tell you is what the network charges are, they do not tell you what the metering charges are and they do not tell you what the market charges are.

That is what is hurting people's bills. That is what is hurting every South Australian family at the moment. That is what is hurting every South Australian business. The wholesalers, the generators, the poles and wires all have fixed costs. We have gone from a couple of major power generators in yesteryear to now thousands of power generators, which is ideology: generating a little bit of power off your roof, sometimes storing a bit of power in your battery.

But every South Australian is picking up the tab. Mark my words: it might feel good, it might sound good, to have 75 per cent renewables, but it is costing every South Australian a significant amount of money for the fixed charges. We cannot just be spellbound by the cost of electricity. That is a small element of your bill, remembering that it is the other charges that are costing so much money.

I will just give everyone a bit of an understanding. At the old Holden site, they used to use 35 megavolts, MVA. When the current desal plant was built, they thought it was going to use a significant amount of power, somewhere in the vicinity of 100 MVA. They now know that running that plant uses about 40 MVA. BHP at Olympic Dam are the main power consumer in South Australia. They use 100-plus MVA at any one time. OneSteel, which is now GFG, the Gupta enterprise, use 50 MVA.

It will be interesting to see how the traditional power will convert over to what I think is a little bit of a pipedream, this government's hydrogen model. It is an experiment. It is going to come at a significant cost to taxpayers, and it has to be proven. I am a little sceptical because there is nothing there that is giving me hope. It will be an untested form of power generation in South Australia, how it is going to work.

By the way, EnergyConnect, the interconnector, is all very good. It is basically putting an extension cord between all of the southern and eastern states so that we can generate power, we can push power into other states when they need it and we can draw power into South Australia when we need it. It is a great idea, but we still continue to talk about solar and batteries. We continue to talk about a lot of the renewables. I think that is a great thing to talk about because I am a supporter, but where is the base load going to come from? We cannot continue to say that we are going to get lots of solar panels, lots of fans and lots of batteries to generate the base load that this state needs because that is a simple furphy.

The state would need to be covered with fans, it would need to be covered in solar panels, to have the base load needed for some of these big users of power, and not just the big miners, the big steelmakers and the manufacturers: do not forget about the food. You cannot eat steel, you cannot eat hydrogen, but you can eat the produce that comes out of the fields, which need reliable power to keep the water pumped, to make sure that the pack houses can keep the lights on and to make sure that we can load the trucks and get it to market so people can put food on their table at an affordable price.

I must say, for what it is worth, speaking with a number of large power users, providers and generators, the best way to put transparency into the marketplace is by decoupling your bill. To do that is not playing politics: it is just plain math. At the moment every bill, whether you are house or a business, has four major components: we have a network charge, which is large; we have an energy charge, which is small; we have a metering charge, which is almost invisible to understand how it works; and we also have market charges. If we were able to decouple those four components of our power bill—so when you get your power bill next time, just turn the page over and better understand what the component of energy is in the overall cost of your power bill. It will probably make your jaw hit the floor because the energy component on the bill is very, very small.

The network charges, the metering charges and the market charges are what need to be exposed so that we can better understand where those charges are coming from, and then we can tackle those charges individually. We can decouple and we can have a level of transparency, because at the moment it is very hard to understand what your power bill represents. For the day-to-day mums and dads who do not understand, they look at the overall bill charge and they are gobsmacked because they do not understand the layers that make up the charge of that bill.

As I understand it, the national energy law, the Australian Energy Regulator, we have to support it—yes we do—but we need more transparency in the marketplace. We need to better understand what our bill represents and what makes up that charge so we can actually tackle those individual charges and then better understand how to actually reduce our power bill on a day-to-day basis.

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