The Energy White Paper defines a policy agenda for the next four years. However, the directions and priorities we set in this period must take into account our long-term policy goals, expected trends and any challenges that will emerge over the next two decades and, in some cases, beyond.
Many investments in the energy sector have lengthy operating lives and long-term policy implications, and transformation driven by incremental investment decisions takes time to flow through the sector. Just as we have largely ‘locked in’ our energy base to 2020 through decisions in past decades, the decisions we make in this decade will shape our energy future in the years beyond. In this sense, we are rapidly approaching a 2035 planning horizon.
However, while the Energy White Paper generally focuses on the period to 2035 in its outlook, it also recognises that the focus in different areas may vary and may be context-dependent. For example, some aspects of energy market reform have a more immediate horizon than others, while technology development may extend over many decades.
1.4.2 Relationship to other government policies
The Energy White Paper builds on existing key government policies, such as the Clean Energy Future Plan and the new resource rent taxation arrangements. In this sense, it does not revisit well-established Australian Government positions on issues such as climate change, water policy, fiscal settings or broader environmental management.
However, it recognises that those and other policy areas intersect closely with energy policy, and that it is important to be clear about the nature of the interrelationships and ensure that they are delivering mutually supporting outcomes as efficiently as possible.
1.4.3 Energy policy in the federal context
The Energy White Paper recognises the complexities imposed by various shared and separate responsibilities for energy-related functions across the different levels of government in Australia.
Australia’s energy governance arrangements are defined through a mix of constitutionally defined responsibilities, intergovernmental agreements and market governance agreements. Australia is also a party to a number of international agreements with implications for energy policy.
At the national level, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and its predecessors have been the main drivers of change in energy policy, particularly for interconnected markets in the east.3
The COAG Standing Council on Energy and Resources, established in September 2011, has general responsibility for Australia’s energy markets under the Australian Energy Market Agreement and associated laws. The standing council also performs a range of functions in the development of the nation’s mineral and energy resources.4
These arrangements mean that much of energy policy, particularly in relation to our national energy markets, is developed and implemented through cooperative action between the Australian and state and territory governments.
For this reason, the positions framed in the Energy White Paper may not always translate into policy in shared decision-making environments. Nonetheless, the White Paper will shape the fundamental direction of energy outcomes sought by the Australian Government.
1.4.4 Structure of the White Paper
The 2012 Energy White Paper is structured in three parts, each with multiple chapters:
Part I: Australia’s energy in context sets out the Australian Government’s high-level energy policy framework (Chapter 1), gives a snapshot view of the energy sector (Chapter 2), and outlines a vision for the future along with the key challenges for energy policy over the next decade (Chapter 3).
Part II: Core elements of Australia’s energy policy examines the government’s energy frameworks, key policy challenges and priorities for energy security (Chapter 4); energy resource development (Chapter 5); the clean energy transformation (Chapter 6); our liquid fuel, gas and electricity markets (chapters 7 to 10); and improving energy productivity (Chapter 11).
Part III: Supporting energy policy outcomes describes key supporting policy frameworks that contribute to the achievement of energy policy objectives, including sustainability, skills and workforce development, and promoting Indigenous outcomes (Chapter 12); Australia’s international engagement on energy (Chapter 13); and improving our energy information (Chapter 14).
A supporting appendix is available online at the Energy White Paper website.5
3 COAG comprises the Prime Minister, state premiers, territory chief ministers and the president of the Australian Local Government Association.
4 More detail on the intergovernmental and market arrangements for energy and energy resources is in Chapter 2: Energy in Australia and in the policy chapters in Part II.