Politics of Power: Federal Coalition Government Turns on Subsidised Renewables

HELE coal-fired plant now firmly on Australia’s energy menu.

***

Politics is a brutal business: no sooner is a politician or political party riding the crest of a wave, than they’re being smashed against jagged rocks and deluged by a roaring surf.

As Australian politicians are fast learning, the politics of power is even more brutal still.

Continually rocketing power prices is bad enough, but routine load shedding and blackouts, the consequence of attempting to run on sunshine and breezes, tests the temper of even the most politically placid business owner or family.

Having thrown tens of billions of dollars in subsidies at wind and solar power outfits, Australia’s Federal government is now ruing the day that it ever opened taxpayer and power consumer wallets to a band of insatiable, subsidy-sucking rent-seekers.

Power prices matter, having power on demand and around-the-clock matters a whole lot more.

After Alan Finkel delivered his Never-Never Land recommendations aimed at solving Australia’s power market fiasco, the Liberal/National Coalition responded by running a mile from those recommendations, not least because the predicted outcomes are patent nonsense, but also because the modelling on which those predictions are based was done by consultants Jacobs (formerly SKM). SKM made predictions about where Australia’s power market would be now, back in 2014 during the RET Review.

Back then, ACIL Allen and SKM predicted that Australia’s wholesale electricity price would fall to around $50 per MWh this year: instead it’s around triple that, rising from $130 per MWh to $150 per MWh since the closure of Hazlewood in April.

As American baseball and pop philosopher, Yogi Berra put it: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future”.

In Coalition ranks it seems that once bitten by SKM, leaves them twice shy of its predictive progeny, Jacobs.

Here’s how Finkel’s report was warmly rejected in the Coalition party room.

Coalition split on public cash for coal power
The Australian
David Crowe
15 June 2017

The federal Coalition has splintered over calls for taxpayer assistance to build more coal-fired power stations as Malcolm Turnbull tries to smooth over a policy brawl about the best way to drive down household energy costs.

The Prime Minister blasted his critics for offering “glib answers and one-liners” that did nothing to fix the power crisis, as his predecessor Tony Abbott proposed a retreat on Australia’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Queensland Liberal National Party MP George Christensen called for the public funding and ownership of a new coal power ­station that produced fewer emissions than today’s generators.

Mr Christensen said he would not vote for a government scheme that did not include coal power and that many of his Nationals colleagues were of the same mind, raising the idea of putting taxpayer funds into a new power station to offer “certainty” for customers.

“The onus is going to be on the federal government to either seriously invest (in) or build a coal-fired power station,” he said.

“You’d need more than one, perhaps it’s several.”

Asked on Sky News if that meant government ownership of the new coal stations, Mr Christensen said “that would be right” and that nobody complained about similar taxpayer support for renewable projects.

Assistant Industry Minister Craig Laundy disagreed with Mr Christensen on the grounds that Australia needed action on energy “here and now” rather than with a coal-fired power station that could take four to eight years to build.

“If building coal-fired power stations was a solution, in reality it would have needed to have started between five and eight years ago,” Mr Laundy said. He said it would be better to invest in existing coal power to keep it going longer.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce last night said “business as usual” was not an option and that Labor should agree to the construction of new coal-fired power stations, given similar plans in countries such as Germany and Japan.

“The Germans aren’t stupid. They wouldn’t be building coal-fired power stations if they thought there was a smarter way to do it. They’re responsible global citizens,” Mr Joyce told the ABC.

Mr Abbott argued against a hard commitment to cut emissions to meet global agreements to combat climate change, even though his government set the target in August 2015 — making it a key assumption in the call for a clean energy target issued last Friday by Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel.

“The problem with the Finkel report is that it’s basically all about reducing emissions,” he said.

“Now it’s nice to reduce emissions, and we have an aspiration — I stress an ­aspiration — to reduce our emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030. But frankly we shouldn’t be doing that if it’s going to clobber power prices, hurt households and cost jobs. We shouldn’t be doing that. And I think there’s pretty well a general consensus in our partyroom along those lines.”

The comments highlight the divisions among Coalition MPs over whether to stand by their policies from two years ago as they search for a way to avoid pressure on electricity prices.

Mr Joyce said Mr Abbott “could be doing more” to help the government’s case.

“He held an incredible position of respect in our nation, he’s been the prime minister,” he said. “And with that respect comes a responsibility that at times you have to temper your expressions. ”

Asked on the ABC 7.30 program if Mr Abbott was damaging the ­Coalition’s ability to hold government, Mr Joyce said: “I hope not but people always have the potential to do that, yes.”

In the aftermath of Tuesday night’s special Coalition meeting several MPs cautioned against claims that 20 MPs spoke against the Finkel plan.
The Australian

Not sure why there is any need for caution about the number of Coalition members slamming Finkel’s plan?

From the list provided to STT a mere 4 of them announced that they were in favour of the plan; fully 22 members spoke out against Finkel’s fantasyland; and 5 were yet to be convinced of its ‘merits’.

And the reasons for that fall straight from the politics of the real: electricity consumers vote.

Common sense says keep it simple and keep the lights on
The Australian
Dennis Shanahan
15 June 2017

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten agree that people are “sick and tired of politics as usual” in regard to the vexed issue of energy. The Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader are convinced it’s “complex” and “difficult”.

Here’s a news flash from the Common Sense News Agency: the politics of the energy crisis facing Australia is actually quite simple — it’s about lower power prices and the future of coal.

The core demands of voters and consumers are simply that the lights stay on and the electricity bills stop rising.

The core political challenge for Australia’s leadership is to meet those simple, immediate requests without further damaging the integrity of the national electricity generation system or entrenching further uncertainty for business, investment and industry.

Stripped of virtue signalling, suspicion, ideology, hypocrisy, personalities, confusion, politicking and vested interest, delivering these core demands comes down to lowering prices and the future of coal.

The first political leader to produce a plan that satisfies those common sense, simple demands and legislates a framework that ensures their success and future should be guaranteed a term as prime minister — probably two if electricity prices actually fall and blackouts cease.

Shorten’s disadvantage in this debate is that Labor’s priority remains cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the long term at a cost to consumers in the short term.

The ALP’s ideological or political refusal to truly accept a role for coal in the near-to-medium future is part of this emissions-first priority and has been the deadweight for Labor’s attempts to master an energy plan for years, both in and out of government.

Turnbull’s disadvantage is that his scarred history of co-operating with Labor on a carbon price leaves him open to suspicion from colleagues and doubts of sincerity from the public.

Yesterday Turnbull reiterated his non-ideological approach and his agnostic view on energy and climate change and entrenched his support for the future of coal as Australia’s base-load power generator.

After declaring how complex and hard it would be, Turnbull defined how consumers would know if he had succeeded: “they will see downward pressure on electricity and gas prices”.

As the leader of the Coalition, Turnbull — facing a revolt and threats that MPs will not vote for a solution without coal — has no choice but to include some coal solution in his plan.
The Australian

What politicians fear most: power consuming voters.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Peter Pronczak says:

    There is always someone trying to hijack the topic, STT primarily presents wind turbines as uneconomical, requiring massive public subsidy to exist, are an all round health and safety risk, making them totally stupid to support as an economically reliable electrical source.
    The ‘green’ aspect, even in solar or tidal, is nothing more than a ruse to make these monsters part of the geopolitical construct of the City of London Corporation’s casino economy of gambling on the artificial value of RET’s. Green targets could be far better addressed by planting added value trees, which would also not only provide shade, but act as water reservoirs.

    That nuclear power in all aspects is the most logical power source, being a basis of driving the energy flux density is undeniable. To continue the move to fusion energy has nothing to do with with bombs; a rock, kitchen knife or fist can’t be legislated out of existence, fusion energy, as Kennedy’s space program did, will return far more abundance of return for every $ spent.
    In the interim, adding low cost clean scrubbing to understood coal plants makes sense.

    Alan Finkel’s private opinion, as are many politician’s and others, is pro nuclear, meaning there are many who support technological progress, the question this raises is what is the motive of those who are are against such progress?
    Answer: Money, & they don’t care what happens to the lives of others.

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