Former union bully boy and billionaire wannabe, Labor opposition leader, Bill Shorten is all over the shop on energy policy.
Terrified witless of the lunatic left and the Greens who, like the tail that wags the dog, have driven the Australian Labor Party into a suicidal push for a 50% RET, Shorten has taken a flogging from an energised Malcolm Turnbull and in his flummoxed response exposed the ALP’s greatest weakness: a power policy that is guaranteed to destroy Australia’s once reliable, secure and affordable electricity supply, much as South Australia’s wind power obsession has turned it into an international laughing stock.
Over the week just gone, it was hard to tell where Shorten and the ALP stood on their ‘aspirational’ 50% RET; and even harder to work out just how much these intellectual pygmies think ‘achieving’ it might cost.
Bill Shorten stumbles on the cost of push for renewable energy
16 February 16 2017
Bill Shorten has stumbled on energy security by failing to explain how Labor will achieve its goal to produce half the nation’s electricity from renewable power, as his senior colleagues also spread confusion about the plan.
The Opposition Leader dodged questions over the cost of his 50 per cent goal for renewable energy by 2030, putting him on the defensive at a time of heightened concern over the reliability of the national electricity grid.
Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen deepened the problem in an interview late yesterday when he insisted the renewable energy target and the 50 per cent goal were separate policies, without putting a cost on the overall plan.
As Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon called the renewables policy an “aspiration” rather than a hard target, the opposition came under fire for avoiding valid questions about the cost to households of achieving the goal.
Mr Shorten set the “ambition” in a July 2015 speech to Labor’s national conference but the policy has become more concrete since then, with Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler repeating the objective of a “single national target of 50 per cent clean renewable energy” by 2030. Asked four times on ABC radio yesterday how much this plan would cost, Mr Shorten said there was a “range of levers” but would not offer detail on the road map to the target.
He said the levers included an emissions intensity scheme in the electricity sector, an emissions trading scheme to put a price on carbon, looking at the rate of land clearing and investing in solar power.
“For me, the answer to the question about cost is that there is a cost in not acting,” he said.
When ABC interviewer Sabra Lane asked again how much households would pay, Mr Shorten said the answer was “very, very straightforward” because the cost of not acting on climate change was higher.
He then warned against using coal-fired power.
“We don’t think we could sustain the cost, as the Liberals are saying, of building new coal-fired power generation on the scale which (Malcolm) Turnbull is saying,” Mr Shorten said.
The government accused him of failing to own up to the true cost of his policy.
The Prime Minister attacked Mr Shorten in parliament: “He was asked four times today, on the ABC, what it would cost. He couldn’t and wouldn’t answer the question. Again and again, he ran away from the facts.”
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg cited a transcript from July 2015 when Mr Shorten was asked four similar questions about his goal without explaining the cost.
The exchanges go to the heart of the political dispute over energy security at a time of power shortages, with Mr Turnbull raising the prospect of more coal-fired power while Mr Shorten insists on the need for more renewables but cannot explain the cost.
Mr Bowen told Sky News there was a “range of policy initiatives”, emphasising an emissions intensity scheme in the electricity sector but skirting questions about the detail of the overall target.
“If you’re talking about the cost to households, we’re talking about electricity and there is no impact on electricity prices,” Mr Bowen said.
“What you do is, where you have an electricity generator who is not meeting their targets, they have a price to pay; where they are exceeding their targets they get a benefit.”
Sky News presenter David Speers then asked if there would be “no net impact on household power prices and no net impact on the budget” and Mr Bowen agreed, but his remarks were about the policy taken to the last election — an emissions intensity scheme. The cost of the wider 50 per cent target remains a matter of conjecture, with Mr Bowen saying this was separate to the EIS.
Labor denied Mr Frydenberg’s claims it had put a $48 billion cost on its policy, saying Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates showed an “investment” of that amount instead. It said this would create nearly 30,000 new jobs.
Mr Shorten issued a statement last night that avoided the cost question again. “Renewable energy isn’t a cost, it’s an investment in the economy and jobs,” he said.
Labor’s claims about wind power creating jobs is a well-worn hoax: South Australia, Australia’s ‘wind power capital’ has more wind turbines per capita than any other economy in the world and yet (for some unknown reason) suffers the highest unemployment in Australia by a mile; and the unemployment rate can only worsen as businesses crippled by rocketing power costs close their doors or refrain from making any new investment at all.
South Australia’s biggest employer, BHP Billiton has been crippled by rocketing power costs and erratic supply, which caused it to slam the door on its long touted $20 billion investment, which was to be directed at the expansion of its Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold mine in the north of the state; an investment that would have added thousands of new and sustainable jobs (see our post here).
For another example of how subsidised wind and solar power crush meaningful employment, look no further than Spain (see our post here).
And one study from the US shows that the pre-Trump wind power policy settings would have cost 1.2 million American jobs (see our post here).
But, maybe, just maybe Bill Shorten and the ALP’s boys and girls don’t really believe their own bluster.
Labor retreats on 50pc RET as Turnbull’s attacks on Shorten over electricity prices bite
Rachel Baxendale, Simon Benson
17 February 2017
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has added to Coalition attacks on Labor appearing to walk back from a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, by saying the aim was always crazy, reckless and irresponsible.
Labor has been accused of a political retreat after caving in to pressure over its commitment to a 50 per cent RET, as Malcolm Turnbull sought to sharpen his attack against Bill Shorten on electricity prices.
The opposition’s increasingly confusing position on whether its policy was an aspiration, ambition, goal or hard target comes as the government prepares to go to war with recalcitrant states on the real pricing issue of excessive network charges.
Senator Cormann also today dismissed news of WA Labor leader Mark McGowan scrapping his own 50 per cent target ahead of the state’s election, saying he did not believe for a second that Labor had really abandoned the plan.
He said all Mr McGowan’s actions indicated was that he had realised that people understand that a 50 per cent renewable energy target would push up the cost of electricity, hurt business and cost jobs.
“So he’s now seeking to mislead people about his true intentions before the election,” Senator Cormann told Sky News.
“The last time you heard a sentence like that was from Julia Gillard before an election, and of course immediately after the election we got the carbon tax she promised she wouldn’t introduce, so nobody can believe a single word Mark McGowan is saying on this.
“He’s put his shadow energy minister in witness protection, he’s told him he’s not going to be in his cabinet. There’s a deeply divided Labor Party here in Western Australia.”
Senator Cormann said WA was particularly vulnerable in terms of energy security because it is not part of the national grid.
“Western Australia has to be energy self-sufficient. There is no interconnector to come and save Western Australia should the wind not blow and we rely too much on wind farms,” he said.
The Greens yesterday accused Labor of “cowardice” after its climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler appeared to back away from an iron-clad commitment to a 50 per cent RET in a clear sign that Labor believes it is being damaged politically on the issue.
“It’ll be an emissions-intensity scheme that is aligned with our emission-reductions target which will require, in my very clear view, that about half of our electricity by 2030 will be zero emissions,” Mr Butler said.
Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen also sent mixed signals about Labor’s RET policy and was unable to say what its cost would be, other than to claim there would be no cost in its commitment to an emissions intensity scheme. Mr Butler later said claims of a retreat on its RET goal were “rubbish.”
The shift comes after Mr McGowan capitulated on his party’s mooted plans for a 50 per cent state RET and said there would “be no renewable energy target at a state level under any government I lead”, in an echo of former prime minister Ms Gillard’s pre-election carbon tax promise.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told parliament Labor had “no idea what its policy on renewables actually is.”
“It is becoming increasingly unclear whether Labor’s talk of 50 per cent renewable energy is, in their own words, an ‘aspiration’, a ‘goal’, an ‘ambition’, an ‘objective’, a ‘policy framework’ or in fact a hard ‘target’,” he said.
As the government labelled the scheme as a new carbon tax, the Prime Minister used question time to label the opposition reckless on energy policy.
“The one thing we’re all aware of is that the Leader of the Opposition is proposing to impose a 50 per cent renewable energy target on all Australians, shatter Australian businesses, destroy jobs, hurt households,” Mr Turnbull said during a fiery question time.
“Every member opposite knows there are businesses and jobs in their electorate which their policy puts at risk. There is no bigger burden on Australian households than Labor’s effective tax which they are imposing and it is a tax levied by Labor incompetence.
“Their energy plan is guaranteed to deliver the least reliable electricity and the most expensive electricity — which is driving jobs away, discouraging investment, putting families at risk with higher and higher bills.
“That is what Labor would deliver to the whole of Australia, if they had their way.”
Greens climate change and energy spokesman Adam Bandt accused Labor of a complete withdrawal on its commitment to a 50 per cent target enshrined as a policy goal at the 2015 ALP national conference. “It seems Labor has waved the white flag in Turnbull’s war on renewables,” he said.
“Labor’s retreat on the renewable energy target is a betrayal on climate change and a betrayal of clean energy. This is incredible cowardice from Labor. Instead of fighting for clean energy, they are capitulating to the Coalition.
“Investment is being held back because of the lack of clear long-term policy on renewables.”
Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said today he was disappointed that federal Labor appeared to have drawn a line through its target.
“I think the Labor Party had been clear that they had a target to get to 50 per cent of our energy mix coming from renewables by 2030 and Mark Butler and Bill Shorten have restated that in recent days,” Mr Thornton told ABC radio.
“I think they’re clear that that’s still where we want to get to and I think the debate that we’re having at the moment, unfortunately not in the most sophisticated way, is really around the policies that might get us there, and so it is disappointing to see the Renewable Energy Target which is a policy measure that was introduced by the Howard government in fact all the way back in 200 – we think it does have a role to play into the future, in fact beyond 2020, and so it is disappointing to see a line put through that yesterday.”
Asked whether there was a prospect of renewable energy becoming a greater part of the mix without government subsidy in the near future, Mr Thornton said that if someone was to build a new, unsubsidised power station today, the cheapest form of new power station would be wind or solar.
“That’s cheaper than gas, it’s cheaper than any form of new coal generation,” he said.
“The challenge is that what we’re competing with is not other new technologies, we’re competing with a whole bunch of old coal generation that was built many decades ago, in fact it was built by taxpayers, by governments around the country, and while we’ve still got a lot of that old generation in the electricity market, then that’s going to make it very difficult for any new form of generation, be it wind or solar, to compete in that market and that’s why we have a renewable energy target and why we may need one in the future.”
Mr Thornton dismissed the notion of gas as a bridge between coal and renewables, saying that the cost of wind and solar had fallen dramatically while the cost of gas had increased.
“It’s increased something like three times over just that five-year period, so what that means today is that it’s impossible economically to see how you would build new gas-fired generation both in terms of the cost of the gas, let alone the shortage of the gas and the inability to get a long term contract.
“The reality is right now, if we’re building power stations rather than renewable power stations then we’re essentially building higher cost power stations and that’s going to have a higher impact on power bills one way or another.”
Challenged over the reliability of renewable energy given outages seen recently in South Australia, Mr Thornton said the evolution of battery storage technology would make renewables more reliable.
He disputed that an outage in South Australia last week had been caused primarily by reliance on renewables.
Wind industry cheerleader, Kane Thornton from the Clean Energy Council (a lobby group run by our favourite whipping boys Infigen aka Babcock & Brown) is the clear winner of STT’s Pinocchio award this week, with his suggestion that wind power “competes” with gas and coal-fired conventional generators.
What utter bollocks!
In every ‘competition’ in life, the ‘competitors’ are required to line up together, at the same time, traverse the same course, run the same distance and cross the same finish line.
Wind power is rarely in the stalls at the same time conventional generators are ordered to line up and – even when wind power eventually manages to hit the track – it rarely covers the distance – as in this ‘fail to finish’ on 8 February 2017, which left 90,000 South Australian families boiling in the dark:
So much for Kane Thornton’s “competition”.
Those 90,000 families would have gladly paid to have power delivered and, as is so often the case, the only power capable of being delivered to them and their long-suffering compatriots came from coal-fired plant situated in Victoria, delivered via interconnectors; or local gas-fired plant or diesel generators.
Kane has often struggled with English, a difficult language – especially for Arts/Marketing Grads – so we’ll throw him a bone on what ‘competition’ actually means:
competition noun: the activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others; an event or contest in which people take part in order to establish superiority or supremacy in a particular area; the person or people over whom one is attempting to establish one’s supremacy or superiority; the opposition.
STT is not sure what SA’s 18 wind farms were doing on 8 February, but we’re fairly confident that, whatever it was, it wasn’t in any kind of ‘contest’ with conventional power generation and it most certainly failed to establish any kind of ‘superiority’ or ‘supremacy’ over its so-called ‘competitors’.
Kane, these days you just sound even sillier and more desperate; let it go, it’s over. South Australians have worked it out; and they know that they’re not in Kansas anymore – these things do not work on any level – South Australians are living with the reality of wind power and they’re not enjoying it. Funny about that:
What guarantees the demise of the Federal government’s Large-Scale RET, is the fact that neither the ALP nor the Liberal/National Coalition can point to any single coherent policy basis for retaining it.
Labor’s internal squabbling and public bickering has ratcheted up the level of dreaded uncertainty over the the existence of the current LRET to 11. Here’s The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan detailing the imminent demise of the LRET.
ALP scuttles away from its RET standard
17 February 2017
Labor is crab-walking, nay, crab-scuttling away from its proud environmental standard of a national 50 per cent target for renewable energy.
For almost 2½ years Labor has promoted, boasted about and flaunted its 50 per cent RET while accusing the Coalition of being “fossil fools” in supporting coal-fired power as part of Australia’s energy mix.
Labor has allowed Mark Butler’s upgrading of the 2015 ALP national conference agreement beyond a goal of a 50 per cent RET by 2030 to stand, and stand proud.
The impracticality, huge cost and unsustainability of the target have been largely ignored and the Coalition has been unable to make ground with its own energy policies.
But since last September, with the South Australian blackouts and, more dramatically, since Wednesday last week, Labor started to feel real pressure.
This week it wilted.
A cohesive, non-ideological policy aimed at supplying lower-cost, reliable electricity to industry and households has suddenly borne fruit for the Coalition and put Labor on the back foot politically.
Labor’s policy position has not changed for years. Its position is the same and its rhetoric has been consistent — 50 per cent renewables by 2030, backed by even higher state and territory targets — was not only achievable but anything less was failure.
Now Bill Shorten and the federal Labor Party are changing their rhetoric and sharply raising the emphasis on an emissions-intensity scheme and a carbon price.
In the past two days, in an atmosphere changed by Malcolm Turnbull’s attack on the Opposition Leader over electricity prices, Shorten, Chris Bowen as Treasury spokesman and Butler as climate change spokesman have all floundered or dissembled in interviews over the RET policy.
Shorten, who has admitted not having any economic modelling for the proposal, refused four times on the ABC to say what it was going to cost.
Three times on the ABC, Butler wouldn’t say if it was a goal, an aspiration, an ambition or a target. And Bowen was uncharacteristically incomprehensible on party policy.
Like West Australia Labor, which is mid-campaign and has abandoned a 50 per cent target, federal Labor is now trying to get everyone looking in the other direction and thinking about other solutions.
Afraid to commit a Kevin Ruddesque total backdown on cutting emissions, Butler is holding on to the claim that it is almost impossible to achieve Australia’s commitment to emissions reductions without a 50 per cent renewable target, but the cocksure attitude is gone.
Labor has been parading an unsustainable policy position as a political strength for more than two years and virtually got off scot-free. But, after just a little pressure and some drastic evidence of the danger of over-reliance on intermittent renewables sources, the crabs are coming back to claw them.