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COVID-19

Visit australia.gov.au for the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) news, updates and advice from government agencies across Australia. Download the “COVIDSafe” government app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. This highly secure app enables public health workers to notify people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 more quickly and effectively.  

You can also download the ‘Coronavirus Australia’ government app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store or join the WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android.

Energy.gov.au has help for energy consumers and information on what governments and market bodies are doing in the energy sector. This includes links to all state and territory government online information.

Australian Government response

Council of Australian Governments Energy Council 

The Council of Australian Governments Energy Council (COAG Energy Council), comprising the Australian Government and state and territory government energy ministers, have met to agree a coordinated and comprehensive approach to identifying and managing the impacts of COVID-19 on the energy sector.

For more information, see the COAG Energy Council Communique on COVID-19.

Australian Energy Market Operator

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is now enacting its full suite of pandemic responses to provide the maximum possible protection and resilience for its critical operations and people. AEMO is also working with the energy industry including electricity generators, gas facilities, network businesses and other market participants to support additional pandemic management actions across the sector.

For more information, see the AEMO website.

Australian Energy Regulator

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has issued a statement of expectations for energy businesses through the Coronavirus pandemic, including businesses that:

  • offer all residential and small business customers who notify you of their financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement, regardless of whether the customer meets the ‘usual’ criteria for that assistance
  • do not disconnect residential or small business customers without agreement and waive dis- and re-connection fees for businesses that close
  • defer referrals to debt collection
  • maintain clear, up-to-date communications with customers about their policies and the support available

For more information, see the AER website.

Energy.gov.au also has up-to-date information about energy sector responses to COVID-19.

State and territory government response

State and territory government measures relating to electricity bills in their health and economic stimulus packages include:

  • New South Wales giving a $30 million boost to the energy accounts payments assistance scheme and a $750 annual electricity bill rebate for businesses with electricity use below 100 MWh per year
  • Queensland issuing bill relief with $200 for households’ power/water and $500 electricity rebates for businesses
  • Tasmania capping electricity prices, a promise that Aurora Energy will not disconnect any residential or commercial customers during the emergency period, and the waiving of SMEs’ electricity bills for the quarter from April 2020
  • Victoria allowing customers to put their debt on hold for 6 months if they can’t afford to pay for their ongoing power usage, or they can be given a plan to pay off their energy bills for up to 2 years
  • Western Australia allowing anyone who has become unemployed because of COVID-19 to be eligible for a concession card and claim an energy assistance payment. It's been extended to 30 September 2020 for new applicants. Businesses that use less than 50MWh per year will be able to access $2500 credit for electricity bills. There will also be a reduction in electricity bills for 2800 charities and a one-off $2500 credit available for groups on certain tariffs with Synergy and Horizon Power

For the latest information, refer to state and territory government online information.

Other news

Energy bills to lower to relieve struggling Australians

Relief is on the way for Australians experiencing COVID-19-related hardship following the announcement of an electricity and gas network relief package unveiled by Energy Networks Australia to be targeted at small business and residential customers.

Flatten the curve on energy costs at home during the COVID-19 lockdown

Tips on saving energy as Australia gets ready to hunker down at home through the colder months.

National Energy Efficiency Awards - submissions deferred until 30 June 2020

Due to COVID-19, the ceremony for the National Energy Efficiency Awards has been deferred from May 2020 to the second half of 2020. As a result, the deadline for awards submissions has been extended to 30 June 2020.

Oil demand set to contract, says IEA, after 2.5% drop in Q1

Global oil demand is expected to decline in 2020 for the first time since 2009, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), as the impact of COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, constricting both travel and broader economic activity.

Government policies and projects

Power bills to drop when AEMC implements demand reduction scheme

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) scheme to pay big industrial energy users to cut their power consumption on hot days is aimed to be ready by next summer.

Additional east coast gas supply required by 2024

AEMO has identified a projected shortfall of gas supply on peak winter days in the southern states from 2024, unless more southern supply sources are developed, or pipeline capacity limitations are addressed.

New toll for energy security and reliability on the horizon

Australia’s national electricity market will be handed a new, affordable tool to help manage security and reliability issues. This will come ahead of the 2021-22 summer with the AEMC drafting new market rules that will allow large customers to routinely trade their energy use in the market.

Green hydrogen injection plan for Victoria and South Australia gas grids

A new research centre funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will investigate the feasibility of blending hydrogen into the Victorian and South Australian gas networks.

Plans for world-first solar power plant in Western Victoria

ARENA has announced $3 million in funding to RayGen Resources Pty Ltd to conduct a technical and commercial feasibility study for a 4 MW ‘solar hydro’ power plant to be built in north-western Victoria.

Evoenergy to trial Australian Capital Territory virtual power plant

Evoenergy has received $2.05 million in funding from ARENA to research and test potential market platforms that will support Canberra’s rapidly changing energy market. The project will explore the effect that distributed energy resources such as solar PV, battery installations and EVs have on the electricity network.

Harnessing hydrogen in Rockhampton

The Australian Government will provide up to $1.25 million through ARENA to Stanwell Corporation Limited to fund a feasibility study for a renewable hydrogen demonstration project at Stanwell Power Station in Rockhampton, Queensland. 

New study for New England renewable energy zone

ARENA is providing $951,000 to Oven Mountain Pumped Storage Pty Ltd in partnership with Alinta Energy to undertake a study on pumped hydro energy storage at Oven Mountain, New South Wales.

Next-gen energy technology projects get green light

The Australian Government is investing in the future of energy innovation by backing new technology projects that harness opportunities from the oceans to outer space. $344,000 will be provided to support two new industry-led collaboration projects through National Energy Resources Australia (NERA).

Victoria lifts ban on onshore conventional gas exploration and bans fracking

The Victorian Government has introduced legislation to enshrine the ban on fracking and coal seam gas exploration in the Victorian Constitution, as well as allow for an orderly restart of onshore conventional gas exploration and development from 1 July 2021.

More than $15 million for New South Wales regional energy projects

Seven regional energy projects will share in more than $15 million of funding to support energy affordability and innovation thanks to the NSW Government’s Regional Community Energy Fund.

New South Wales announces stage 1 of net zero emissions by 2050

The New South Wales economy will see over $11.6 billion of private investment and 2,400 new jobs under Stage 1 of the NSW Government’s plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean said the plan, the first of its kind in Australia, is all about reducing the state’s emissions in ways that grow the economy.

Businesses

Green Light For New South Wales 720MW New England Solar Farm

New South Wales' Independent Planning Commission has conditionally approved development of a $768 million solar farm in the Northern Tablelands region.

EV fast-charging network expands to include Melbourne to Adelaide route

Chargefox, Australia’s largest EV-charging network, has expanded with the opening of the first ultra-rapid charging station in Keith, South Australia. It is one of many charging stations the company plans to plan to open to connect EV drivers from Melbourne and Adelaide.

Australia’s first pumped hydro project in 40 years gets green light

The first pumped hydro project in Australia’s main grid in nearly 40 years – and the first outside public ownership – looks almost certain to go ahead after the listed Genex landed a revised off-take agreement with utility EnergyAustralia for its 2000MWh Kidston storage project.

Adelaide Airport first to switch bus fleet to 100% electric

Adelaide Airport will be the first airport in Australia to switch its entire bus fleet to 100% electric, in a new deal with airport transfer service SkyBus. From early 2021, electric buses, to be made by north Adelaide-based Precision Buses, will replace the airport’s current fleet of buses both on and off the tarmac.

Tomorrow’s brewers to tap the hydrogen they pour down the drain today

University of NSW students are trialling an invention that can separate hydrogen from waste-water produced in beer brewing ahead of a pilot later this year.

A renewed outlook on renewables

The Australian Pipeline Trust (APA), traditionally an owner of gas transmission assets, has invested time and money over recent years to not only develop solar and wind projects, but source 50% of its electricity generation capacity from renewables.

Keeping the roos out: a new use for SPS

Farmers in Western Australia are utilising Western Power’s stand-alone power systems (SPS) to keep kangaroos out of their crops.

Households

Rooftop solar breaks all previous records in February

Australia’s rooftop solar market has shown no signs of slowing down so far in 2020, despite a start to the year marred by bushfires, the coronavirus and a global economic downturn.

Research and innovation

Sustainable microgrids are the future of clean energy

After taking 20 years for solar panels and battery storage costs to fall far enough to make truly sustainable microgrids an economic reality, a recent surge in interest and installations have shown that they’ve reached an inflection point and could be the future of clean energy.

Oh buoy: wave energy converters are producing electricity from the seas

There is a new type of exploration taking place as scientists and renewable energy innovators understand more about the awesome power that oceans waves can provide.

Nature-inspired green energy technology clears important development hurdle

Researchers around the world are seeking to use photosynthesis -— the sunlight-driven chemical reaction that green plants and algae use to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into cellular fuel -— to generate fuel that can power homes and vehicles.

BYO battery trailer for EVs

A range-extending trailer carries 60kWh in batteries that can add 563km of range and be charged while driving.

International

A recycling plan to clear wind turbine blades from graveyards

A Danish startup aims to turn old turbines into a material that can address a different environmental threat: noise pollution.

Electric vehicles charged from streetlamps

A street in Westminster, London, has been dubbed Electric Avenue, after Siemens and Ubitricity installed EV charging points in streetlamps. Ubitricity has been converting streetlamps to charging points in the UK's capital since 2015. There are now some 1300 installations dotted throughout the city.