The Government has committed to major renewable energy projects in the 2017 Federal Budget, aiming to set Australia’s energy markets up for a secure, reliable and competitive future.

The budget outlines a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme, with a study grant through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to examine the best locations to increase the Snowy’s capacity to produce reliable, affordable renewable energy and provide pumped hydro storage.

The Federal Government indicated to the New South Wales and Victorian State Governments that, in order to accelerate the expansion of the Scheme, it is open to acquiring a larger share or outright ownership of Snowy Hydro, subject to conditions. These conditions include that the Scheme would have to remain in public hands and that Snowy Hydro’s obligations under its water licence would be reaffirmed.

The Government is also looking at further hydro-electricity and pumped storage opportunities in Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland.

The Government will also make available up to $110 million to build a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta in South Australia and separately provide up to $36.6 million over two years from 2017-18 to target investment in energy infrastructure in South Australia under a bilateral Asset Recycling agreement.

The Australian Energy Regulator will receive an additional $7.95 million to scrutinise energy providers to ensure they are serving consumers’ needs.

The Government will also provide $7.9 million in 2017-18 to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to review retail electricity prices.

The ACCC will produce a paper within six months on its preliminary insights into the strategies and pricing behaviours of key electricity retailers.

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