STT can’t recall political columnist, Niki Savva penning a single piece on Australia’s wind industry or the Federal subsidies that brought it into existence – like a economic blood-sucking parasite.
With this sharply crafted piece, Niki has set the tone among the previously indifferent press-pack.
Renewable energy faces stormy weather
6 October 2016
Could Australian politics sink to a more juvenile level than it did last week after an entire state was hurled back into the dark ages by a freak storm?
Malcolm Turnbull, quite rightly, seized the opportunity to tell the states they had to sharpen up on energy security and consider an achievable single renewable energy target.
It wasn’t simply a case of a politician not wasting a crisis, it was a case of a leader reacting immediately to an unprecedented crisis with the potential to recur with even more devastating consequences rather than simply emoting in front of the media.
Instead of addressing the issue at hand, state and federal Labor leaders, clutching hymn sheets from central command, fell over each other to get to the cameras to express their outrage that the Prime Minister dared suggest their policies were inappropriate or unworkable.
It was as predictable as it was pathetic. Turnbull had, according to everyone from Bill Shorten down, turned into Tony Abbott — who, it has to be said, deserves 10 out of 10 for consistency since he lost the leadership by saying one thing publicly on the leadership and something else privately. But I digress.
Neither Turnbull nor federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg questioned that the blackout was caused by the weather. What they questioned was the reliability of the state’s power sources in the face of such an event.
Yesterday’s interim report by the Australian Energy Market Operator suggesting wind power was the root cause of the blackout showed they were spot-on to do so. Rule one, as Turnbull put it yesterday, was to keep the lights on, and again urged South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill to own up to his responsibilities.
The South Australian experience has highlighted the possible disastrous consequences of the political one-upmanship on renewable energy targets (which peaks in the ACT, where it has been set at 100 per cent by 2020) yet the response of premiers and their energy ministers has been to accuse Turnbull of “politicking” or morphing into a climate change denier a la Abbott.
Even if he has morphed (and he hasn’t) they, as climate change believers, are the ones preaching catastrophic weather events will become more frequent. If they are right, we can expect more freakish storms more often, wreaking the kind of havoc witnessed in South Australia.
Surely, then, their immediate duty is to ensure they have the capacity to protect their citizens instead of responding with mantra or ideology or insult.
At the meeting of energy ministers in August, Frydenberg had already proposed they should look at the impact on the stability of the system and energy prices of state-based renewable targets. Unsurprisingly, the two most ideologically driven states, Victoria and the ACT, opposed the idea. Queensland was sceptical and NSW strongly supportive.
To his credit, South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis was constructive. Koutsantonis could not be anything else given only weeks earlier he had written to the chairman of the Energy Market Commission, John Pierce, conceding the high uptake of wind and solar had made electricity security a “complex matter”.
Eventually, after a tense stand-off, ministers agreed the review should proceed and it was announced in the post-meeting communique.
Victoria’s opposition to the review is consistent with its ostrich-like approach to the possible closure of the Hazelwood power plant in the Latrobe Valley, which supplies 20 per cent of the state’s energy needs.
Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio responded to the news of a possible closure by saying the state had the lowest prices in Australia and there was an oversupply of electricity. She insists the state would be able to cope, and does not expect it to affect the state’s energy supply.
D’Ambrosio continued her tedious recital from the hymn sheet on Tuesday, saying Turnbull was being hypocritical and clearly hadn’t done enough hand-wringing over the plight of South Australians. As if that would help.
While condemning the Prime Minister for playing politics rather than showing more empathy, D’Ambrosio showed herself to be a dab hand at politics: “At least with Tony Abbott, the people of Australia knew where they stood on climate policy, we don’t have that when it comes to Malcolm Turnbull.”
Because of the complexity of the issue, the review commissioned at the August meeting will not be ready until the end of the year, so Frydenberg tells me his primary goal at tomorrow’s meeting is to actually get the states to confront the issue. First they have to acknowledge a problem exists.
“What is the goal?” Frydenberg asks. “It is to reduce emissions, but the renewable energy target is a means to an end. If you haven’t got the best systems in place, you increase the costs to consumers or you undermine energy security. Then we are all stuffed.”
Meanwhile Labor glides over its policy of 50 per cent renewables by 2030, with not one detail about how to get there. We were told we had to wait until October next year for an answer to that (pending an election win by Labor), although Frydenberg helpfully has suggested that installing 10,000 wind turbines at a cost of $48 billion may be one option.
When opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler was asked on Sunday on Sky News when we could expect to see the modelling or consequences of its target, Butler confessed it couldn’t be done from opposition, only from government, so an answer could be a long time coming.
Not a bad first outing for Niki Savva, but if she is keen to spend time in the renewable energy target policy space Niki needs to get a handle on the fact that it’s the Federal LRET that put South Australia on the map, which has all but wiped it out and which threatens to do precisely the same in every other State stupid enough to follow SA’s ludicrous lead: SA’s Wind Power Debacle Escalates as Australian Wind Power Subsidies Hit $3 Billion a Year.
The Australian’s Editor, while on the money about the threat wind power poses to energy security, gets sucked into the same piece of Federal Liberal Party spin that SA’s crisis is all the result of its own ‘ideological’ State-based target.
Green zealots’ renewable targets risk energy security
6 October 2016
In a First World country such as ours, keeping the power on is the prime responsibility of state governments; increasingly, these days, most Third World governments manage to achieve it as well. Most South Australians left stranded in the dark last week, unable to see, conduct business, work, shop, use lifts, catch public transport or cook would take little comfort in the ideological smugness their state Labor government derives from its ambitious renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2025. Premier Jay Weatherill assured South Australians last week the statewide blackout was “a weather event, not a renewable energy event”. Lightning strikes and wind surges were the cause, he said.
It’s not that simple, independent experts have established. Certainly the power would not have been lost were it not for the one-in-50-years storm that brought tearing winds of 120km/h. But to the embarrassment of Mr Weatherill and his government, the preliminary report of the Australian Energy Market Operator has identified a dramatic loss of wind power generation as the root cause of the blackout.
More research is needed on the cause of the sudden reduction. But in a state with such an aggressive green energy policy, which sources more than 40 per cent of its power from an intermittent mix of renewables, the sudden loss of wind farm production put too much pressure on the electricity interconnector from Victoria, cutting supply.
Ironically, South Australia relies on dirty brown coal baseload power imported from Victoria for energy stability. While the Weatherill government and other adherents to the green gospel blamed the blackout on severe storm damage to high-voltage transmission lines, it appears much of that damage occurred after the power had been lost.
Malcolm Turnbull called it right last week when he attacked state Labor governments for imposing unrealistic renewable energy targets, with little regard for energy security. The Prime Minister accepted that fierce winds and as many as 80,000 lightning strikes were the “immediate cause” of the power failure. But he argued, correctly, that South Australia’s “extremely aggressive” shift to renewables had strained the network.
The AEMO report should be a wake-up call to other states with overly ambitious targets. Queensland, with one of the world’s best quality and most economical coal supplies, is committed to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Victoria’s target — 25 per cent of renewables by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025 — also has raised concerns among business leaders about costs. The shift in Victoria could put South Australia’s energy security at further risk because of its reliance on Victoria for back-up power.
While criticised by the ABC and other “love” media for being “at the bottom of the pack”, the NSW target of 20 per cent renewables by 2020 is more realistic. Ensuring reliable, cheap energy — one of Australia’s comparative advantages for a long time — must be the goal of COAG energy ministers when they meet on Friday.
The Australian’s Editor falls for the same furphy about ‘ideological’ State-based targets.
It is the Federal LRET that has, so far, directed $12 billion worth of RECs to wind power outfits (recovered from retail power customers) and which is designed to pump 33,000,000 RECs (currently trading at $88 each) the wind industry’s way, every year from 2019 to 2031: a subsidy that will (if the policy remains) add a further $45 billion to power bills from here on.
Niki Savva and The Australian’s Editor are being played for fools, by Turnbull and his Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg.
[Note to Malcolm and Josh: the Australian power consumer – read ‘voter’ is not such an easy target: not when their power bills have gone through the roof and, in SA, they have a power supply that is the envy only of the occupants of dirt-floored shanties in Equatorial Africa.]