Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey & Mathias Cormann: Natural Born RET Killers

abbott, hockey, cormann

Joe Hockey, Mathias Cormann & Tony Abbott: Natural Born RET Killers.

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Tony Abbott has made no secret of his eagerness to do away with the most colossal corporate welfare scheme in the history of the Commonwealth (see our posts here and here and here).

And his Treasurer, Joe Hockey has pinned his colours to the mast as someone who can’t stand wind farms – and whose political mission is to bring the “age of entitlement” to an end, which includes the stream of subsidies directed at wind power outfits (see our posts here and here).

The Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann made his disdain for the great wind power fraud known by joining Hockey to prevent the Clean Energy Finance Corporation signing up anymore unsecured loans to wind power outfits (see our post here).

So it comes as no surprise that Abbott, Hockey and Cormann would team up as Natural Born RET Killers. Here’s the Australian Financial Review heralding the beginning of the end for the mandatory RET and, with it, the end of the great Australian wind power fraud.

Abbott’s plan to axe RET
Australian Financial Review
Phillip Coorey
18 August 2014

The federal government is moving towards abolishing the Renewable Energy Target rather than scaling it back in a move that will cost almost $11 billion in proposed investment and which is at odds with the views of its own Environment Minister.

The Australian Financial Review understands Prime Minister Tony Abbott has asked businessman Dick Warburton, whom he handpicked after the election to review the RET, to do more work on the option of terminating the target altogether. This was after Mr Warburton’s review leant towards scaling back the RET.

Sources said Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who advocated scaling back the RET as a compromise, has been sidelined from the process and is understood to be unhappy. They said Mr Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann are pushing the issue now.

A government source said when the government announced its decision, possibly before the end of this month, it was now “more likely” the RET will be abolished under a so-called “closed to new entrants scenario” in which existing contracts only would be honoured.

Given Clive Palmer has vowed to block any change to the RET until after the 2016 election, it remains unclear when the government could declare the RET terminated.

Independent modelling commissioned by the Climate Institute and other environmental groups, and which will be released Monday, found that under the termination scenario, coal-fired power generators would reap an extra $25 billion in profits between 2015 and 2030.

There would be no reduction to household power prices and carbon emissions would climb by 15 million tonnes a year on the back of a 9 percent increase in coal-fired power.

Diminished investments

Abolishing the RET would diminish investment in renewable energy by $10.6 billion, said the modelling, conducted by consulting firm Jacobs.

Conceived under the Howard government, the RET mandated that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2020. The Abbott government has been lobbied heavily by the business and energy sectors to abolish or water it down as renewable energy gained a larger than expected share of the electricity market.

When the RET was first conceived, it was envisaged 20 per cent of total power production by 2020 would equate to 41,000 gigawatt/hours of renewable energy produced each year.

Under the scaleback favoured by Mr Hunt, annual production of renewable energy in 2020 would be reduced to 27,000GWh. But this would still amount to 20 per cent of total energy production because forecast total energy production for 2020 had been downgraded due to the decline in manufacturing, especially the collapse of the car industry and the closure of two aluminium smelters. This is known as the “real 20 per cent” option.

The abolition proposal would reduce renewable energy production in 2020 to 16,000GWh.

It is understood Mr Abbott’s office was briefed on the recommendations of the Warburton review in late July. The review found the RET did not add significantly to household and commercial power bills, as its critics, including Mr Abbott, had argued, and that it should be scaled back to the real 20 per cent model as advocated by Mr Hunt.

With the government favouring ­termination, Mr Warburton was asked to give the option more consideration and his report is expected this week.

Energy oversupply

The government source said the market was oversupplied with energy and there was no longer any cause for a mandated use of any specific type of power. The source said while there would be investment losses if the RET was abolished, or even scaled back, investors “would have to have been blind to know this wasn’t coming”.

Miles George, managing director of renewable company Infigen Energy, said either scaling back or terminating the RET “would be devastating”.

He said the creation of sovereign risk would be significant and the very issue had been raised by prospective foreign investors, including Canadian pension funds which Mr Abbott sought to woo when abroad in June.

“Infigen’s shareholder base of over 20,000 investors has invested in renewable energy in Australia on the basis of a fixed target of 41,000 GWh by 2020,” Mr George said. “This is no different to investors in private public partnerships acquiring a toll road concession, or a port lease.

“If the Government pulls the rug from under institutional investors in renewable energy we shouldn’t expect those investors to come back to buy other infrastructure assets here, including the electricity networks and generation assets that the governments of NSW and Queensland are proposing to sell or lease.”
Australian Financial Review

The AFR touts the wind industry line about “diminished investments”, as if wind power outfits are lining up to make an outright, “no-strings-attached” gift of $10.6 billion to Australian power consumers.

On that spin, Australia’s power punters are meant to fear the “loss” and shed a tear for cowboys like Infigen (aka Babcock & Brown) who are, apparently, just itching to give their investors’ money away.

Of course, like every investment, those stumping up the capital will only do so where a juicy return is on offer; and, under the current 41,000 GWh target set by the mandatory RET, the returns promised to be very “juicy”, indeed. Until now.

So let’s have a look at just who ends up paying for the promised (or, rather, threatened) $billions in wind power investment: we’ll call it $10 billion for ease of reference.

Before we kick off, there are a few things to note.

First, is that around 50% of the value of the threatened “investment” will go to foreign turbine manufacturers in China, India and Denmark. So that sends at least $5 billion offshore; adding to Australia’s current account deficit.

Next, is the fact that the great bulk of any wind power “investment” is underwritten by all Australian power consumers via the mandatory RET – as detailed below.

And it needs to borne in mind that any “investment” in wind power generation capacity has to be matched with an equal investment in fossil fuel generation capacity (principally fast-start-up Open Cycle Gas Turbines) to provide power to balance the grid (the need for which increases – along with the need for additional spinning reserve held by base-load thermal generators – due to the wild fluctuations in wind power output – see our post here) and to accommodate routine, but unpredictable, collapses in wind power output (our posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).

The greater the amount of installed wind power capacity, the greater the need for highly inefficient OCGTs – the installation of which needs to be financed, allowing for returns to those providing the capital: a cost that is never included in calculations accounting for the costs attached to wind power generation (see our post here).

As noted by the AFR, the Australian energy market is oversupplied, which means any further investment in an unpredictable and unreliable source like wind power will simply cause further and substantial increases in retail power prices, additional grid instability and energy market chaos – precisely the circumstances the Germans now find themselves in, after years of runaway renewable energy policy (see our post here).

An “investment” NOT a “gift”

Any investor naturally looks for a return on a capital investment. Ideally, that return exceeds bank interest and – if there is any risk involved – accounts for that risk by way of higher returns. Investors in wind farm projects aim for a gross return on the capital invested in the order of 20% per annum.

That means that the investors stumping up $10 billion to build new wind power capacity will be looking to recover $2 billion from power consumers each and every year to achieve that level of return: returns on wind power investments can only be recouped via income received from power sales – there is NO other source of revenue.

So, rather than being the objects of $10 billion in wind industry largesse, power consumers are being lined up for an enormous, additional and – because there is already ample generating capacity to meet (declining) demand well into the future – completely unnecessary $2 billion hit in the hip pocket each and every year.

A fair slice of the $2 billion annual return on investment required by investors would be recouped via power bills in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): a Federal Tax on all Australian electricity consumers. RECs are issued to wind power generators and transferred to retailers under the Power Purchase Agreements signed between them (see our post here).

Which brings us to another furphy trotted out in the AFR piece – based on “modelling” by wind industry cheer squad, the Climate Institute – that the mandatory RET hasn’t had any significant effect on retail power prices; and that scrapping it would not result in any decrease in power bills.

As we’ve just pointed out, the $10 billion in threatened wind power investment would, alone, add $2 billion to Australian power bills each and every year: no return, no “investment” – simple as that.

The true cost of the mandatory RET

As is the style of the wind industry and its parasites, whenever they’re pitching about the “wonders” of wind it’s all done with “modelling” and never with real numbers. Smoke and mirrors stuff, using assumptions that never hold water – and always ignoring the terms of the legislation upon which the whole rort depends.

So – let’s forget about “models” – based on nonsensical and unjustified assumptions – and simply apply a little old fashioned arithmetic to the provisions that make up the mandatory RET.

Putting aside the hidden costs of providing fossil fuel back up to cover the occasions when wind power output plummets every day – and for days on end (see our post here); putting aside the need for a duplicated network to carry wind power from the back blocks to urban markets (see our post here); putting aside the cost of running highly inefficient Open Cycle Gas Turbines to cover wind power “outages” (see our post here), for the purpose of this argument let’s just focus on the cost of Renewable Energy Certificates and their bedmate – the mandated shortfall charge.

Under the mandatory RET – retailers are fined $65 per MWh for every MW they fall below the mandated annual target: what’s called the “shortfall charge” – follow the links here and here. The shortfall charge is directed straight to the Commonwealth, ending up as general revenue.

The alternative is to buy RECs (which is done via the retailer’s PPA with the wind power generator) and surrender them as proof that the retailer has purchased a MWh of renewable energy.

Wind power generators are issued 1 REC for every MWh of power dispatched to the grid – and this deal continues until 2031: the operator of a turbine erected in 2005 will receive RECs (1 per MWh dispatched) each and every year for 26 years.

Since the RET began in April 2001, over 195 million RECs have been created – worth more than $8 billion – the cost of which has all been added to our power bills.

The cost of the REC is ultimately borne by retail customers and, therefore, constitutes a Federal Tax on all Australian electricity consumers (see our post here).

Time for a little arithmetic.

If no RECs were purchased, retailers would simply be hit with the $65 per MWh shortfall charge on the entire figure set by the mandatory RET legislation (see the link here).

That cost alone would add $2.665 billion to power bills annually from 2020 to 2031.

Alternatively, if sufficient RECs to satisfy the target were purchased at $100, say, the cost rises to $4.1 billion a year from 2020 through to 2031.

Year RET in MWh (millions) Shortfall Charge
(or RECs) @ $65
RECs @ $100
2014 16.1 $1,046,500,000 $1,610,000,000
2015 18 $1,117,000,000 $1,800,000,000
2016 22.6 $1,469,000,000 $2,260,000,000
2017 27.2 $1,768,000,000 $2,720,000,000
2018 31.8 $2,067,000,000 $3,180,000,000
2019 36.4 $2,366,000,000 $3,640,000,000
2020 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2021 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2022 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2023 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2024 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2025 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2026 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2027 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2028 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2029 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
2030 41 $2,665,000,000 $4,100,000,000
Total 603.1 $39,148,500,000 $60,310,000,000

RECs are currently trading around $30, but, as the target starts to bite from 2017, the price is expected to reach $90 and is tipped to reach $100 beyond that.

The shortfall charge (as a fine) is a cost that the retailer can’t claim as a legitimate tax deduction, whereas the REC is – this places an added value on the REC to the extent that its face value can reduce the retailer’s taxable income. At a minimum then, RECs can be expected to trade at a figure at least equal to the shortfall charge. But with the tax benefit attached, RECs would be worth at least $94 – based on a shortfall charge of $65.

At the bottom end, this means the value of the 603.1 million RECs that must be surrendered in order to meet the mandated target from 2014 to 2031 (and/or the shortfall charge applied) will add over $39 billion to power bills over the next 17 years. At the top end, the figure (assuming RECs hit $100 by 2017) will readily exceed $50 billion.

These figures represent the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the Commonwealth: a transfer that comes at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable in society; struggling manufacturing businesses, real jobs and families. To call the mandatory RET obscene is pure understatement. No single policy has ever threatened to cost so much for nothing in return.

It’s these hard and fast facts that have united the PM, his Treasurer and Finance Minister with the intention of killing the mandatory RET outright; and the vast majority of the Coalition are right behind them. The sooner the Coalition axe it, the better. The mandatory RET must go now.

chop-wood-axe-downgrade

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. keith Staff says:

    Modern renewable energies supposedly born to support a sustainable world, have become one of the most unsustainable of human activities, financial greed.
    Follow the money and it will lead you to the problem every time.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The REC operates as a Federal Tax on all Australian power consumers – that is paid as a direct subsidy to wind power generators. The REC Tax/Subsidy has already cost power consumers over $8 billion and – if the current RET remains – will add a further $50 billion to power bills over the next 17 years (see our post here). […]

  2. […] The wind industry depends on the existence of Power Purchase Agreements with retailers. Retailers enter PPAs as a method of purchasing RECs (in order to satisfy the mandated target and avoid the shortfall charge) (see our post here). […]

  3. […] Between 2014 and 2031, with a REC price of $65, the cost of the REC Tax to power consumers (and the value of the subsidy to wind power outfits) will approach $40 billion – with RECs at $90, the cost of the REC Tax/Subsidy balloons to over $54 billion (see our post here). […]

  4. […] STT followers have been delighted with news that Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann have teamed up to axe the mandatory RET (see our post here). […]

  5. […] Phil Coorey’s piece on how Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann have joined forces to bring an end to most ludicrous policy ever devised sent the wind industry into a state of panic (see our post here). […]

  6. […] Between 2014 and 2031, with a REC price of $65, the cost of the REC Tax to power consumers (and the value of the subsidy to wind power outfits) will approach $40 billion – with RECs at $90, the cost of the REC Tax/Subsidy balloons to over $54 billion (see our post here). […]

  7. […] The Emissions Reduction Fund under Direct Action – at a cost of $2.5 billion – would be a mere “snip” by comparison with the $50 billion worth of RECs that would be transferred to wind power outfits – at the expense of all Australian power consumers – over the next 17 years (see our post here). […]

  8. […] news that Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann have teamed up to axe the mandatory RET (see our post here), the wind industry and its parasites have been reduced to a pitiful spectacle: drifting between […]

  9. […] will add between $36 billion and $50 billion to Australian power consumers’ bills (see our post here). But simple and hard facts are lost or ignored as “inconvenient” and […]

  10. […] will add between $36 billion and $50 billion to Australian power consumers’ bills (see our post here). But simple and hard facts are lost or ignored as “inconvenient” and […]

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