Malcolm Turnbull says the government is taking short and long-term steps to put a lid on power prices.
But the electricity sector says the retail market is not the problem and the prime minister continues to ignore the biggest hurdle – a clean energy target to give investors certainty.
The prime minister flew by helicopter to Cooma on Monday to discuss feasibility work on Snowy Hydro 2.0 with key players.
The project – which would provide 2000MW of underground generation and 29km of tunnels between existing reservoirs in the Snowy Mountains region – will take about six years to complete, depending on geological problems encountered along the way.
Following a cabinet meeting in Canberra on Tuesday, Mr Turnbull will eyeball electricity chiefs for a second time in Sydney on Wednesday to discuss progress on getting power prices down.
“We know there are at least a million households, probably a lot more, that are paying more for electricity than they need to because they are on the wrong plan,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.
“So we are taking action right now to ensure Australians right now are not paying more for their electricity than they need.”
He said in the long-term, renewable energy – supported by projects such as Snowy Hydro 2.0 and a possible third stage – would make power more reliable and affordable.
Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren, who will be one of the bosses at Wednesday’s meeting, said enabling investment in new power generation was the best way to drive down energy bills.
“Retailers recognise that many customers are doing it tough, and will be stepping up their efforts to draw attention to the cheap energy market deals which are on offer,” he said.
“The current spike in electricity bills is the result of a shortage of supply in the generation or wholesale market.”
The key to fixing power bills was to adopt the independent advice of chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel and bring in a technology-neutral clean energy target, Mr Warren said.
Mr Turnbull said the government was “working through” the issue of a CET and awaiting a report from the Australian Energy Market Operator.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government had yet to deliver on its promise to halve gas prices, let alone cut electricity bills.
“Australia is in the midst of a gas and energy price crisis,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.
Noting the prime minister was travelling to the Snowy Mountains by chopper for an announcement, Mr Shorten said: “A joy-ride in a helicopter doesn’t help families with their energy bills.”
Mr Turnbull said Labor had failed to put in place protections for domestic gas supply when Mr Shorten was a government minister.