At the risk of sounding like a broken record – or for the younger generation a stuttering CD or a corrupted MP3 file – STT has said it before and will keep saying it: any policy which is unsustainable will fail, crushed by its own imponderable weight or ignominiously scrapped by those who created it.
Australia’s Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target is just such a policy.
Malcolm Turnbull is hardly short of advisers at the moment – Donald Trump just delivered a lesson on how not to go about quietly dumping 2,000 refugees on American soil.
Advice is coming thick and fast on the energy policy front too. Such as the following articles that appeared in The Australian last week. The first comes from Gary Johns, a seasoned political veteran and member of the Australian Labor Party, having served in the Hawke/Keating government in the late 80s and early 90s.
With a solid background in economics, industry and business, Johns is, these days, referred to as an ‘old Labor man’, which is to Gary’s credit. His ALP was long-ago hijacked by green-left lunatics who have never done a serious day’s work (in their cloistered inter-city lives) and couldn’t care less about those that do.
Gary delivers this blistering energy epistle from the heart, not only for Malcolm Turnbull’s benefit, but for the benefit of all.
Keep the lights on if you want to stay, Malcolm Turnbull
31 January 2017
In the real world they are burning coal to generate power – it is a very good idea
Forget fighting old battles. The renewable energy target is bad policy, but there is no use spending political capital trying to change it. Instead, Malcolm Turnbull should announce a stand on the future of electricity generation.
What was once a given — a cheap and reliable supply of electricity — is no longer. And, if the Greens get their way, it will never return. The Prime Minister has to argue for efficient coal generation, and make bankable guarantees of new investment when old stocks retire.
In October last year, the Senate started an inquiry into retirement of coal-fired power stations in Australia, to report in March this year. The Greens and a swarm of mouthpieces in NGOs and universities took this as a signal that there should be a transition to non-renewables. Ah no, it is not.
Take Australian National University researcher Frank Jotzo’s submission. “Replacing coal-fired power with carbon-free alternatives is essential to help decarbonise the economy. Australia’s ageing coal-fired power fleet can be replaced by a predominantly renewable power supply.” Thanks, Frank, but who wants to decarbonise the economy?
Lowering CO2emissions does not require decarbonising the economy. Jotzo, like many others, has taken the “deep decarbonisation” brief that reads: Destroy the coal industry and replace it with renewables (and damn the consequences). Jotzo and the “deep decarbonisation” crowd have to patch together 10 different forms of renewable sources to achieve their dream of making Australia entirely reliant on renewables.
He admits that reliance on these is “subject to assumptions about technological development and the evolution of technology costs”. In other words, he hopes it comes to pass.
Jotzo admits “the overall average costs of power supply in this scenario increases”. But that is OK, according to Jotzo, because “the increase is compensated for by greatly improved energy efficiency”. But some of that energy efficiency comes from “the electrification of transport and energy use in buildings and industry, emissions savings in industry and agriculture and carbon sequestration on the land”. In other words, not from renewables.
In deep decarbonisation, we change the entire economy to suit yet-to-be-invented renewable technologies and pay a higher price for gains, much of which we can have by other means. Meanwhile, in the real word, coal is burned for electricity. Southeast Asia doubled the size of its economy between 2000 and 2013, and, as a consequence, electricity generation tripled.
The International Energy Agency projects electricity generation will almost triple again from 2013 to 2040. And “coal is expected to overtake gas to become the No 1 fuel source for power generation in the coming years”.
Australia’s efforts at deep decarbonisation would be completely useless. Fortunately for greenhouse warriors, there is a sensible path. In the real world, countries are deploying high efficiency, low emission coal technologies to meet their emissions targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
There are 725 HELE units in place in Asia, with another 1150 planned or under construction.
According to the Australian government’s 2015 energy white paper, our nation has an oversupply of electricity generation, and the largest portion of our power is generated by coal-fired power stations, three-quarters of which are operating beyond their original life. The reason many of these plants are limping on is because renewables are being forced into the grid.
As the white paper says: “The policy of encouraging investment in renewable energy through the renewable energy target in a period of weak demand has contributed to Australia’s excess generation capacity.”
The white paper estimates that new generation capacity is not needed before 2023. But to build new coal-fired power stations, which the system needs, takes some years.
In other words, new entrants need some certainty now. The consequence of the RET is that the risk of building new power stations is too high, the returns too tenuous: the higher the proportion of renewables, the more precarious the life of coal-fired power, the less likely new investment.
Labor’s 50 per cent renewable target may as well be 100 per cent because the damage is just as great. The system cannot operate without coal-powered base load. Australia begins to look like South Australia.
There are issues around the standard of emissions required of new power stations and carbon capture and storage technologies, and this is where Turnbull has to step in and create certainty.
Current policies are deterring investment in more efficient and lower emissions plants. Once the old plants are retired or electricity demand increases sufficiently, Australia will need investment in coal-fired power.
Keep the lights on, Malcolm: voters will reward you.
Turnbull not only copped it from an old ALP man, but was also dished up a repeat serving from former PM, Tony Abbott, the man that Turnbull knifed in September 2015.
Over the last few weeks, Tony Abbott has been calling for the abolition of the LRET and receiving plenty of ‘friendly fire’ for his efforts. Churlish critics have slammed him for his supposed ‘failure’ to have destroyed the LRET when they claim he had the opportunity to do so back in 2015.
Tony Abbott made every effort to kill the wind industry and the LRET during his time as PM. What seems to be forgotten is that the reduction in the ultimate LRET target from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh required support from the ALP and the cross-bench in the Senate.
There was simply no way that the ALP would have agreed to scrap the RET outright. And without the ALP, Abbott would have been relying upon the Greens and the cross-bench rabble, in which event the LRET target would have remained at 41,000 GWh, the level set by the Labor/Green Alliance in 2010.
Whatever Tony Abbott’s sins might’ve been in office, his recent (see our post here) and repeated calls for the LRET to be scrapped outright has surely absolved them all.
Abbott to PM: scrap RET or face fury
30 January 2017
Tony Abbott has unleashed another critique on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, using his Achilles heel — climate change — to accuse the government of treating voters like “mugs” if it did not scrap the renewable energy target.
In his second swipe at the Prime Minister in as many weeks, his predecessor said the Coalition would lose all credibility if it did not move to quickly rein in the push to generate more renewable energy.
In a speech yesterday to a Young Liberals conference in Adelaide, Mr Abbott accused the government of “losing touch” with its traditional supporters. The escalation of rhetoric contained a charge that the government not only lacked leadership in Mr Turnbull but that the Coalition was at risk of electoral collapse. It also reveals Mr Abbott is willing to risk further alienation from his own government.
“The past year has shown us what happens when mainstream parties lose touch with their supporters,” he said. “That was the big lesson of 2016. And heed it we must if we are to make a success of the coming year.”
While the RET has resonance among conservative MPs, some have privately expressed frustration that Mr Abbott rejected calls from colleagues when he was leader to do the same.
“Labor wants to more than double the renewable energy target to 50 per cent. That means a $50 billion overbuild of unnecessary wind turbines costing each household $5000 — and that’s just for starters,” he said.
“But before we get too self-congratulatory, rather than making power less expensive, our own policy is to subsidise Alcoa to keep it in business; our own policy is to lift renewable power from 15 per cent to 23 per cent within four years at the cost of $1000 per household.
“This is where the public are not mugs. We can’t credibly attack Labor merely for being worse than us.
“This is why our first big fight this year must be to stop any further mandatory use of renewable power.”
The comments build on remarks Mr Abbott made two weeks ago but indicate that he has no intention of remaining silent as the government struggles to regain momentum after a horror start to the year.
They come as Mr Turnbull is due to deliver a major speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister is becoming increasingly frustrated with Mr Abbott’s intervention on the RET, knowing that the government is unlikely to go as far as Mr Abbott is suggesting.
Senior Liberal MPs said it was no coincidence that Mr Abbott was goading the Prime Minister over climate change, as it was the issue that lost Mr Turnbull the leadership to Mr Abbott in 2009.
Mr Abbott, in his speech, recognised that he was responsible for the RET as it stands now but claimed he had brought it down from Labor’s target. He added that the government now risked subsidising renewables by bailing out stranded industries.
“Australia has almost limitless reserves of clean coal and gas. We should have the world’s lowest power prices. Instead, we’re making it harder and harder to use coal and gas through the renewable energy target — so that power is getting more expensive and less reliable,” he said.
“When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the power doesn’t flow. So until there’s baseload power from low-cost batteries, trying to rely on renewables is mad. My government reduced the renewable energy target from 27 to 23 per cent — but after the lights went out in South Australia, it’s obvious that it’s still too high.
“Alcoa is in trouble, Arrium is in trouble, Port Pirie is in trouble, even Roxby Downs has a problem.
“Why is it OK for everyone to get the benefit of Australian coal and gas except us? Why is it OK for other countries to open new power stations using Australian coal but wrong for us?
“So let’s stop forcing people to use the most expensive power and make it easier for them to use the cheapest.”
Mr Abbott also barely concealed his frustration and a belief that, had he fought the last election as leader, he would have won, claiming the Coalition had taken the conservative base for granted and paid the price.
“The British electorate rejected their prime minister’s advice — and that of the political class generally — to leave the European Union,” he said.
“The American electorate rejected all the mainstream candidates to catapult into the White House an outsider feeding off grievances that are deeply felt but rarely acknowledged by the system.
“And here in Australia, the resurgence of One Nation is a warning to our Liberal-National coalition that the conservative vote can’t be taken for granted.
“What used to be called the silent majority, Hillary Clinton’s ‘deplorables’, might often lack a voice but they sure haven’t lost their vote.
“Voters will punish governments and parties that they think have lost the plot — and so they should.
“So that’s our challenge for 2017: to tackle real problems in a meaningful way so that people’s lives get better, not worse — and to do so in ways that make sense to our strongest supporters.”