Electricity supply (essential services) and COVID-19


Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (14:53): My question is to the Minister for Energy and Mining. Can the minister update the house on how the Marshall Liberal government is supporting the delivery of the essential service of electricity in South Australia in response to COVID-19?

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (14:53): Thank you to the member for Hammond for that important question. Yesterday in question time the Premier made it very clear that our first and foremost priority is to maximise the health outcomes of South Australia during this period and also that another important priority is to support our economy. The delivery of essential services, including electricity, is vital for both of those priorities. It’s incredibly important.

We met last Friday with the COAG Energy Council in a virtual meeting with telecommunications. We met with the resources ministers yesterday afternoon because, of course, the provision of electricity is both an energy and a resource, primarily through gas supply. We are mirroring the approach that has been taken between the Prime Minister and the premiers to make sure that, in this incredibly important area of work, we have all states—Liberal and Labor—and the commonwealth government working collaboratively to make sure that we get the right results.

We had very constructive discussions on both occasions and we have all in our various states—obviously my interest is South Australia—been in close contact with the various industry players that help with the delivery of electricity, from generators and retailers to distribution companies and transmission companies. As well as security of supply, which is incredibly important, we are also focused on customers’ needs.

We know that this is going to be a very difficult time for all South Australians. Many people have already lost their jobs and, tragically, many more people will lose their jobs. Two-income homes will become one-income homes or perhaps no-income homes. We know that supporting South Australians with regard to energy payment hardship programs is now, and presumably for the next six to 12 months at the very least, one of our highest priorities.

I have to say I am very pleased with everything that industry is doing in this space. They are working very closely together. It is probably quite fortunate that the electricity industry is used to collaborating, with competitors collaborating in an appropriate way at times of pressing need and urgency. For example, when we have heatwaves and when we have a generator go down unexpectedly or when we have transmission lines knocked out for one reason or another, this industry, including gas suppliers, has a good track record of coming together to get through, in a practical sense, what they need to for those periods of time.

They have the lines of communication already open. They are working through their short, medium and long-term plans to do everything that they possibly can to support communities. Electricity provision, which was the substance of the member for Hammond’s question, is an essential service, without any doubt. It is an essential service because we need our hospitals to have electricity, we need people at home to have electricity, we need all of the industries that are able to continue to operate to have electricity, and we need all of the medium and the small business that are able to continue to operate to have electricity.

We also need it to be affordable and reliable. The work that we have been doing for two years now to make electricity in South Australia as affordable, as reliable and as clean as possible continues through this time, but, of course, we have a much broader and much more combined and concerted effort between state governments to support each other and between companies that normally would be competitors to support each other in an appropriate way.

I say again that through this time, we will do everything that we possibly can to make sure that all South Australians, from the smallest household to the largest employer, are served as well as possible through this difficult virus pandemic.