Australian Energy Assets Under Chinese Control, Leaving Aussies in the Dark and Deep Pockets—Are Aussies Left in the Dark and at Beijing’s Mercy?

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Chinese ownership of Australian energy assets has become a growing concern, with experts warning of potential national security risks. 

Chinese companies have acquired significant stakes in pipelines, power stations, and providers, raising questions about Beijing’s potential influence over Australia’s energy supply. 

Cybersecurity risks associated with Chinese firms owning the electricity network have also been scrutinised, including the possibility of controlling internet access and telephone communications. 

China’s Dominance in Renewable Energy Manufacturing

China’s dominance in renewable energy manufacturing is noteworthy. The country produces 80% of the world’s solar panels. Seven of the top 10 wind turbine manufacturers are also based in China. Chinese companies have invested significantly in Australian renewable energy projects, indicating their strong presence in the sector.

Concerns Over National Security

Experts express concerns about the potential national security risks associated with Chinese ownership of Australian energy assets. Clive Hamilton, an expert on Chinese influence, warns that Chinese companies are legally obliged to obey orders from China’s intelligence agencies.

“‘These critical infrastructure assets must remain beyond the control of the Chinese Communist Party,” he emphasised.

“In the event of a conflict between Australia and China, such as the one concerning Taiwan, there is a significant likelihood that the Chinese government would disrupt our energy supply, leading to a blackout.”

“The banking system would face disruptions, traffic would descend into chaos, and petrol stations would be left stranded.”

“Why are we investing billions in advanced military equipment while leaving ourselves susceptible to grey zone warfare? It is illogical.”

“I believed we had become aware of the situation, but it seems we are still oblivious.”

This raises concerns about the potential for Beijing to exert control over Australia’s energy infrastructure, including the ability to disrupt supply in times of conflict.

Chinese Ownership of Energy Assets

Chinese companies have acquired substantial ownership of various Australian energy assets. Notable examples include:

1. Alinta Energy: Owned by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, Alinta Energy operates power stations in Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia.

2. EnergyAustralia: China Light and Power Company owns EnergyAustralia, which operates in southern and eastern states.

3. CKI: Hong Kong-based CKI owns stakes in power networks and gas pipelines in South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland.

4. State Grid Corporation of China: Through Jemena, the State Grid Corporation of China has acquired stakes in transmission networks and electricity and gas assets.

These ownership patterns highlight the substantial presence of Chinese companies throughout Australia’s energy sector.

Concerns about Cybersecurity Risks

The cybersecurity risks associated with Chinese ownership of electricity assets are a cause for concern. Chinese control over Australian energy infrastructure raises the possibility of blocking access to internet and telephone communications. This poses a significant risk to national security, as critical infrastructure and communication networks could be compromised.

Challenges in the Gas Sector

The concentration of ownership in the gas production sector has contributed to higher gas prices in Australia than in other energy superpowers. This situation raises questions about the fairness of pricing and tax payments within the industry.

Scrutiny of Foreign Investment Review Board

Recent controversies surrounding the sales of critical power and communication services have prompted increased scrutiny of the Foreign Investment Review Board’s role. National security concerns have been cited as reasons for blocking certain foreign investments. However, there are concerns about whether the regulator effectively safeguards Australia’s critical infrastructure against potential risks.

The Chinese ownership of Australian energy assets raises significant concerns about national security and cybersecurity risks. With Chinese companies controlling a substantial portion of the energy supply chain, including power stations, pipelines, and transmission networks, the potential for external influence is evident. As Australia strives to ensure its energy security, balancing foreign investments and safeguarding critical infrastructure is crucial.

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