Top SEC advisor steps down

File photograph



THE former chief scientist, Alan Finkel has resigned from the State Electricity Commission, while the SEC’s chief executive warned energy prices may rise.

The Australian Financial Review reported that Dr Finkel had quit his role advising the SEC, amid criticism by experts that plans for the re-established body lacked detail.

Premier, Daniel Andrews promised that the SEC, which will be based in Morwell, will bring down prices.

The SEC’s inaugural chief executive, Chris Miller, also told the Australian Energy Week conference last week that it was still searching for its first project. Mr Miller said the energy transition could cause a rise in energy prices.

“Getting to 95 per cent renewables in Victoria will require a large uptick in billed rates”, he said.

“We’re just focusing on what we can control, which is that first investment process and bringing on capacity as soon as we can.”

Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron said the state government’s ill-conceived plan to bring back the SEC was unravelling.

“The SEC’s own interim CEO said that energy prices will rise,” he said.

Dr Finkel, who led the national electricity market review road map, confirmed his departure based on “personal reasons”.

“There are big challenges ahead but exciting challenges. I’m not suggesting it’s not possible to do. It’s just that it is big and complex,” he told the AFR.

The state government committed an initial $1 billion in the lead-up to the May budget to help deliver 4.5 gigawatts of power through renewable energy projects, with the Victorian government to take a majority stake in the projects.

A Victorian government spokesperson said, “Professor Finkel has made an invaluable contribution to the re-establishment of the SEC, and we thank him for sharing his wealth of experience, which has contributed greatly to bringing back government-owned energy in Victoria.”

The Grattan Institute’s energy director, Tony Wood, agreed that electricity prices would rise, the AFR reported.

“No-one who has ever understood any of the numbers would ever tell you the delivered price of electricity is going to go down unless you were going into an election and wanted to promise they would,” he said.

The Australian Energy Market Operator estimates the transition from fossil fuels will cost about $320 billion nationally.

Mr Cameron said Labor had failed to sell its case for bringing back the SEC at every turn, and recent Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings and the 2023-24 Budget exposed yet more holes in its shambolic plan.

“More than a month after the budget was delivered, we are still none the wiser. The SEC will not bring power prices down, it will not deliver 59,000 jobs, and it absolutely will not deliver enough renewable energy to meet demand in time for Labor’s accelerated planned closure of coal-fired power stations,” he said.

“Here in the Latrobe Valley, where we have powered the state for more than a century, the people didn’t vote for this. They see this for what it is: a political stunt that ignores commercial realities and will only increase power bills and taxes for Victorians.”

The Commonwealth was aiming for 82 per cent renewables by 2030, with Victoria’s target 95 per cent by 2035.