Energy ministers axe ESB in bid to accelerate renewables rollout


Australia’s energy ministers have voted unanimously to replace the Energy Security Board (ESB) with an advisory panel that will co-ordinate market body advice to governments to help drive the transformation of the National Electricity Market (NEM) from fossil fuels to firmed renewables.

In a communique issued following their meeting in Alice Springs on Friday, Australia’s energy ministers said the “time was right” to transition to a new operating model for the ESB with the Energy Advisory Panel (EAP) to advise on security, reliability and affordability of Australia’s east coast energy system.

Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the ESB, which was launched in 2017, was designed for a particular time and “a new government with a new agenda has new needs.”

“The concept of an Energy Security Board which would receive regular referrals for policy work is no longer one that is fit for purpose and one that ministers unanimously agreed to move on from,” Bowen said.

The EAP will include the chief executives of the three energy market bodies – the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Australian Energy Regulator (AER), and the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) – and the energy commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as an observer. The new arrangements will take effect from 1 July 2023.

The Smart Energy Council (SEC) described the decision to abolish the ESB as a smart choice, saying the body has “long stifled the progress of renewable energy in Australia.”

“Again and again in recent times, the Energy Security Board has put up proposals that have been rejected by energy ministers because they would delay the uptake of renewables,” it said. “Ministers and government departments will now rightly be responsible for energy policy development.”

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) also welcomed the decision but warned there can be no delays with the rollout of renewable energy projects if federal government is to meet its target of 82% renewables by 2030.

“Any new advisory body must focus on reducing complexity and increasing collaboration because we have no time to waste,” the CEC said in a statement.

The energy ministers acknowledged that during their meeting, agreeing to increase resourcing to the AEMO to get more clean energy connected to the grid, more quickly.

Bowen said the decision will see a rise in AEMO’s resources of about $3 million (USD 2 million) to ensure that renewable dispatchable investments are connected to the grid as soon as possible.

“There’s a lot of investment into our grid, a lot of good work occurring in renewable transmission, but some of it is encountering delays in being connected to the grid, receiving approvals to connect to the grid,” Bowen said.

“So we’ve agreed to increase resources jointly between the Commonwealth and the states for AEMO now to get that work done more quickly, particularly overcoming months to ensure we have maximum capacity in the lead‑up to next summer.”

Bowen said the ministers also agreed to work together on removing any obstacles to any of the new transmission or generation coming online in the next couple of months.

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