Politics of Power: Queensland Voters Blame Subsidised Renewables for Rocketing Power Prices

For more than 15 years renewables rent seekers have been peddling the myth that wind and solar power are practically free, and getting cheaper all the time.

As Australian power consumers anxiously crack open the envelopes that contain power bills guaranteed to shock over the next few weeks, the crushing bottom line staring back in black-and-white at gobsmacked householders will finally put paid to that well-worn lie.

The rates set out in the graphic above began to apply from 1 July this year; those on monthly billing cycles will have just received their first bills at the new rates. In notionally wind powered South Australia, power bills will be fully 20% higher than this time last year.

But everybody across the country is facing a thumping; Queenslanders, no exception.

The wind and solar industries have, until now, taken the notion that every sentient being on the Continent is 100% behind subsidised renewable energy as an article of faith.

If one’s worldview was limited to what appears on the ABC, one might be forgiven for buying into the ‘everyone loves wind and solar power’ mantra.

Of course, renewables rent seekers rely on the perception that the Australian voting public can’t wait until every last watt of the power they use is generated by sunshine and breezes. Over the last couple of months, AGL has run a thoroughly nauseating propaganda campaign, hoping to keep that part of the renewables mythology alive and kicking; no doubt in an effort to counter the rage felt by power consumers being hit with 20% increases in their power bills.

At the political level, lobbying (and failing that, bullying) politicians to continue refilling the subsidy trough is an easier prospect if MPs believe their constituents will all vote in favour of throwing endless $billions in subsidies at wind and solar outfits, as well as whopping subsidies for household solar panels with ridiculously generous, guaranteed feed in tariffs: a political quid pro quo, if ever there was one.

The problem though is that voters can only be fooled for some of the time.

State governments have all thrown billions of dollars in subsidies at solar panels on rooftops, paying ridiculous money for the power they generate, and successive federal governments have already thrown $15 billion at windmills, and are, apparently, determined to throw another $50-60 billion to the wind.

With such consistent and determined generosity, the average voter might reach the conclusion that the political class must know what they’re doing; surely such monumental benevolence (with other people’s money) simply has to pay off for all concerned, somewhere down the track?

15 years into Australia’s dalliance with heavily subsidised wind and solar, the average punter might wonder what all that taxpayer and power consumer largesse has delivered, and whether it was all worth it?

Tapping into power consumer ponderings was this Galaxy Poll carried out in Queensland for the Courier-Mail.

With 47% blaming subsidised renewables for the rocketing power costs they now face, the politics of power just turned electric. No longer can renewable rent seekers rely upon the myth that the wind and sun are free.

Queenslanders blame renewable energy for rising power prices, Galaxy Poll finds
The Courier Mail
Steven Wardill
4 August 2017

QUEENSLANDERS are blaming renewable energy for their surging power prices, forcing them to cut spending on holidays, dinners and clothes to cover the costs.

Most Queenslanders have also backed a proposal for a new coal-fired power station in the north of the state to help drive economic opportunities and bring down prices.

The findings from a new Galaxy Poll, commissioned exclusively for The Courier-Mail, are a bitter blow for the Palaszczuk Government which has hotly pursued a 50 per cent renewable energy target and condemned the costs of new coal-fired power.

Ahead of a crisis meeting on prices next week with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, energy retailers yesterday blamed the lack of a coherent national policy for forcing up costs.

The Reserve Bank also warned the rising price of electricity and gas would put pressure on inflation, hitting households with higher bills as well as increased costs passed on by business.

Queensland’s standard electricity tariff has surged from 14¢ per kWh with a $5.40 a month service fee to almost 26¢ per kWh and 87¢ a day over the last decade.

A typical Queensland customer will pay almost $2000 for power in 2017-18 while small businesses will pay $2550 after rises of 3.3 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively.

The Palaszczuk Government spared households from further price pain by absorbing the $770 million cost of the solar bonus scheme’s 44¢ feed-in tariff over the next three years.

However, the high-priced home-produced power was forecast to add $4.1 billion to power bills overall.

The Galaxy Poll found 47 per cent of voters believed renewable energy was driving up their prices, while just 14 per cent thought solar, wind and other sources were keeping costs down.

It found 28 per cent believed renewables were having no impact.

One in three of Labor’s own supporters were critical of renewables.

Opposition was strongest at 62 per cent among One Nation voters, the key group both major parties are desperate to appeal to ahead of the looming state election.

The poll found 50 per cent of voters supported a coal-fired power station in north Queensland while 40 per cent were opposed.

Support was strongest in regional Queensland and among LNP voters.

Respondents were also asked about the impact power bills was having on their spending.

Voters identified little luxuries (43 per cent), holidays (42 per cent), eating out (37 per cent) and purchasing new clothes (33 per cent).

The impact escalated as household income declined, however those on more than $100,000 were also cutting their spending.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her Government had kept the electricity assets and increased concessions.

“We kept our power generators in public hands and we are attracting new private sector investment in large-scale projects because we have energy security,” she said.

“The LNP liked coal-fired generation so much, they wanted to sell them off to overseas interests and those returns would have gone offshore as well.”

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls blamed recent wholesale power price spikes on Labor’s decision to load up Government-owned generators with debt.

“Queenslanders know Labor’s headlong rush to a 50 per cent renewable energy target will just drive up prices even more, not to mention the risk that we will do a South Australia and battle to keep the lights on,” he said.

Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren insisted the best way to put downward pressure on power prices was to introduce a “coherent national energy”.

“Recent power price increases are the result of old generators closing and the lack of a consistent plan as to how to replace them,” he said. “This is a national policy failure that has been a decade in the making.”

In its latest statement on monetary policy, the RBA also blamed a lack of investment caused by policy uncertainty for impacting prices.

“Along with the direct effects on household utility bills, there will also be indirect effects on inflation as a result of rising business input costs,” it said.

Power costs eat into grocery bills

LIKE most Queenslanders, the power bill chews up a big chunk of Liah Johnston’s family budget.

The 34-year-old mother-of-three lives with husband James, 40, at Carrara on the Gold Coast and says their power bill has increased significantly in recent years.

“The fact that our electricity bill has jumped so much over the last three years … along with the other bills means we’re definitely having to think about spending a little less on luxury things like holidays, going out for dinner,” she said.

“And even in terms of necessities like grocery shopping and things like that, it’s also something that we need to keep an eye on with our budget, with how much we are spending.”

Ms Johnston says her family uses solar power, but it does not provide “a whole lot” of cost saving relief.

“I think it does make a difference … mostly with the hot water,” she said.

“But we’re still finding our bills are really up there.”

Ms Johnston, whose husband works as a delivery driver, currently cares for their children at home, but intends on returning to work soon “as the cost of living continues to rise”.
The Courier Mail

Queenslanders are generally a pretty sunny bunch, so it’s unusual to hear them to complain about very much, at all. So for them to turn on Labor’s die-in-a-ditch push for a 50% renewable energy target, must’ve been triggered by something serious.

While Queenslanders might be upset about their rocketing power bills now, they ain’t seen nothing yet.

While almost every house in south-eastern Queensland is covered in subsidised solar panels, the Sunshine State has hardly any wind power capacity.

The 67 turbines currently being speared into Mt Emerald on the Atherton Tablelands, south-west of Cairns will be the only major wind farm in Far North Queensland.

Further south, a few other wind farms have been threatened for years, but most projects have stalled, unable to find anyone willing to bet their shirts on the survival of guaranteed subsidies for wind power.

Notwithstanding the obvious consequences, Annastacia Palaszczuk and her side-kick Jackie Trad would emulate South Australia and its wind power obsession in a heartbeat, if they could.

With that in mind, Queenslanders might thank their lucky stars that they’re not (yet) living in a wind powered state, like SA (see the graphic above).

The average retail price paid by Queenslanders is $356.90 per MWh (35.69 cents per KWh) as against the $471.30 per MWh (47.13 cents per KWh) being gouged out of South Australians: $114.40 per MWh (or 32%) more than their Queensland cousins pay for power.

Like Victorians, Queenslanders get the bulk of their power from coal-fired plant; Victorians are paying an average retail cost of $346.50 per MWh (34.65 cents per KWh).

What the Galaxy Poll indicates is a clear inverse relationship between power prices and the tolerance voters entertain towards subsidised renewables: crank up power prices and that warm fuzzy feeling towards glistening solar panels and flailing windmills disappears like snow in summer.

And, as the full effect of the Federal government’s Large-Scale RET starts to bite over the next three years, retail power prices are set to double again.

Somewhere between now and then, the voters who have just turned against subsidised wind and solar will go from a sizeable majority, to a thumping majority.

Any MP who believes they can avoid the politics of power is deluding themselves. But, then again, so is anybody who still believes that this country can run on sunshine and breezes, for free.

That’s right Anna, voters hate renewables because they’re not free.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. As the RET/CET bites, Queenslanders will be paying South Australians for the LGCs generated from all that State’s intermittent energy. So hard working Queenslanders not only being tasked to produce reliable power for the country but also sending wads of money to South Australia for their crazy full scale experiments into unreliable power generation.

  2. singletonengineer says:

    I don’t subscribe to a Liberal/Labor dichotomy regarding wind and sun power Vs the alternatives.

    It seems to me that the issue is populism over facts. The result is that coal and gas, which clearly have public downsides due to pollution, get let off with the “public” not receiving compensation for damage to the “public goods”, ie healthy environment. That is because carbon taxes and the like are unpopular, not because they are or are not fair and reasonable.

    The other face of the coin sees wind and sun power receiving unjustified subsidies as listed here, and I agree with almost everything written here on this topic.

    If three-faced coins existed, the third face would address the populism which prevents nuclear power to be considered fairly on the basis of cost, safety, environmental effects, etc. Populism again comes before rational decision-making. Proof: Australia has two laws which each bar consideration of nuclear power, regardless of the facts. Pure emotion.

    Indeed politicians, driven by populism, have avoided making good decisions in these and many other areas for decades, search of votes.

    The only answer, it seems to me, will come through the ballot box.

    Australia cannot afford to continue to pay the price of being governed by popularity contests, lawyers and do-gooder publicity seekers. I have no magic answer, but unless and until supremacy of anti-factual argument in public debate is overcome, silly policies will continue to waste our opportunities and dollars.

    Thanks, “Stop These Things” for being so forthright and rational in a sea of worthless, baseless opinion. I doubted your value until I started following this site. Keep it up.

  3. Crispin Trist says:

    The sooner you get on with building new coal fired power plants, the quicker you can close down the old ones.

    Surely that is a step in the right direction?

    I also think that the coal industry should be using covered train hoppers to transport the coal to port as a good will gesture to those who live along the rail corridor. It will cut down on airborne particle pollution and provide the industry with a cleaner image.

    Image is everything after all.

    Is it time once again to make coal the new black?

  4. William Gray says:

    Wind turbines in Northern Queensland? What about the recent cyclone Debbie? I didn’t know they could be insured against cyclones . Must be a (Labor) Govt backed insurer.

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