Battlelines Drawn: Monash Forum Pushes for Reliable & Affordable Coal-Fired Future

Barnaby Joyce: puts trouble on the home front aside to focus on energy.

 

A mere trickle of opposition to subsidised wind and solar power has just turned into a flood of biblical proportions.

A group of National and Liberal MPs have declared war on renewable subsidies. Calling in aid the legacy of Australia’s greatest Soldier, Sir John Monash, the Monash Forum has gathered 30 Federal MPs to its cause, with that number growing daily.

Their objective is simple: restore Australia’s once reliable and affordable power supply; the Genesis of which was the system of coal-fired plant that was conceived and built by Monash in his home State of Victoria in the 1920s.

Here’s The Australian detailing the momentum of a movement driven by common sense and compassion for their constituents.

Barnaby Joyce joins insurrection seeking ‘Hazelwood 2.0’
The Australian
Joe Kelly and Greg Brown
4 April 2018

Barnaby Joyce has lashed out at Malcolm Turnbull’s signature energy policy and rejected assurances it was “technology agnostic”, as he joined a backbench insurrection to pressure the government into building a $4 billion “Hazelwood 2.0” coal-fired power station.

In his first major criticism of government policy since standing down as deputy prime minister in February, Mr Joyce told The Australian he had signed up to the newly established Monash Forum because he wanted to make “absolutely certain” that the national energy guarantee delivered new coal-fired power stations. “I was aware of it and I signed it; it would have been remarkable if I hadn’t,” Mr Joyce said. “HELE (high-efficiency, low-emissions) coal-fired power plants are not the Dickensian dark satanic mills of many a year ago.”

The Australian can reveal the Monash Forum has signed up 20 members — including some frontbenchers — and is supported by another 10 MPs who have refrained from lending their signatures to the document, which was authored by Victorian Liberal MP Kevin Andrews.

The forum — supported by Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz — is urging the government to build a $4bn power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, keep the Liddell power station in NSW open beyond 2022 and explore further sites for coal-fired power plants.

Some moderate MPs were furious at the emergence of the ginger group — revealed by The Australian on Monday — and argued it looked like a stalking horse to destabilise the Prime Minister’s leadership while derailing attempts to secure agreement for the NEG at a meeting of state and territory energy ministers later this month.

“I feel like I am in the Greens,” one MP said. “I am convinced they would prefer to be in opposition.”

Mr Joyce, who earlier this year labelled comments by the Prime Minister as “inept” when he was fighting to hold on to the Nationals leadership amid the scandal over his affair with a staffer, denied the Monash Forum was a vehicle to threaten Mr Turnbull’s leadership. The co-ordinated push to ­elevate coal-fired power comes as Mr Turnbull this month confronts the likelihood of his 30th Newspoll defeat.

Mr Turnbull said yesterday his energy policy was “technology ­agnostic” and gave an incentive for the energy sector to invest in baseload power. Mr Joyce accused the government of double standards for building Snowy Hydro 2.0 but not investing in new coal-fired power generation. “It’s like saying ‘I’m agnostic about religion as long as it was founded in Japan, China or India’, which means of course that you’re not agnostic,” Mr Joyce said. “If they were truly technology agnostic we wouldn’t be complying with the international caveats (under the Paris Agreement) of having to bring renewable energy onto the grid … We are manipulating the market to get renewable energy onto the market.”

Mr Joyce said assurances from Mr Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg that the government was neutral on the issue of new coal-fired power were “completely paradoxical”.

Labor seized on the Coalition divisions to warn the new grouping was aimed at “putting the Prime Minister on notice”.

Mr Turnbull dismissed concerns that the forum was an attack on his leadership, claiming the NEG had the support of the partyroom and was a market-based ­policy designed by the Energy Security Board. “Those who are concerned that there should be more investment in coal-fired power stations, the national energy guarantee puts a premium on dispatchability, 24/7 power. Now coal can obviously provide that, so can gas, so can hydro, so can other technologies,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg said the NEG would give market certainty to private companies that wanted to invest in coal, but stopped short of saying the government would help stump up finance for a new power station.

“I would want the market to receive the right signals as to where they should be investing and right now there are not those right market signals,” he said. “I am not pro-coal or anti-coal, I am not pro or anti-renewables, but I am in favour of lower energy prices and a more reliable industry.”

Senior cabinet ministers refused to criticise the ginger group yesterday. Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said the proposals were worth considering and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton commended the group for generating ideas on lowering power prices. Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne would not rule out the government financing the construction on a new power plant.

Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler said the government should rule out giving subsidies to coal-fired power plants. “This very substantial ginger group led by Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce indicates that there are probably very significant rocky roads ahead for the Coalition partyroom,” he said.

The Australian has confirmed that some frontbenchers including Keith Pitt — assistant to the Deputy Prime Minister — have signed up to the document, which is also supported by Nicolle Flint, Rick Wilson and John Williams.

“Everyone that’s in the parliament wants lower prices for energy,” Mr Pitt told The Australian. “This is, in my view a group of commonsense people looking for some practical outcomes.”

Mr Wilson said the group had nothing to do with leadership. “In fact it essentially supports the national energy guarantee and we just want to see coal as part of that guarantee, we want to see the cheapest possible and most reliable energy generation sources and it is a group that believes coal has a place in that,” he said.
The Australian

Nothing dark or Satanic about giving the masses power they can afford.

 

On the eve of any battle, the protagonists would dearly love to know whether they’ll end up standing on the winning side.

After the power pricing and supply debacle that’s played out in Australia’s renewable energy ‘superpower’, South Australia, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to work out that the Monash Forum is odds-on favourite for victory.

Households are taking a battering; businesses are being belted by the highest power prices in the world. An utterly gobsmacking result for a country that leads the world as an exporter of coal, gas and uranium.

Those that placed this Country in that embarrassing and entirely unnecessary position ought to be ashamed of themselves. Those still keen to keep it there can expect brutal political punishment, at the very least.

Here’s the Editor of The Australian pointing out that PM, Malcolm Turnbull needs to choose sides now, before his dwindling political career is snuffed out, altogether.

Battlefield opens again on climate and energy policy
The Australian
Editorial
4 April 2018

Naming a Coalition splinter group on energy policy after General Sir John Monash is both apt and ominous for Malcolm Turnbull and his government.

As founding chairman of Victoria’s State Electricity Commission in 1921, Sir John engineered the cheap and reliable coal-fired generation from the Latrobe Valley to power the state’s development.

This energy advantage has been surrendered nationally through policies to subsidise renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. So by invoking Monash the agitators — including former prime minister Tony Abbott — rightly note our economic success has been based on affordable and reliable energy.

The sinister implication comes from how Sir John is best known as a commander in World War I, a strategic master of victory in the battlefield. After a decade of skirmishes and political assassinations based on climate and energy policy, the Prime Minister will be uncomfortable watching his internal enemies marshalling around this issue.

The Monash Forum rails against government interventions such as the renewable energy target and subsidies for solar and pumped hydro schemes and dares to ask why the government wouldn’t also fund a new coal-fired power station to guarantee reliability of supply and put downward pressure on prices.

It is undeniable that the RET has hastened the retirement of power stations in South Australia, Victoria and NSW, exacerbating price increases. It is also beyond contention that current settings and fears about future targets and carbon prices have created an investment strike on thermal plants.

By constantly interfering in the nascent National Electricity Market, involving private operators, governments have created an unfortunate situation where more public spending has been needed and now more is being demanded. As unwelcome as that would be, the Prime Minister can’t scoff at funds for coal-fired generation after he promised loans for a plant if the LNP won the Queensland election, and given his pet Snowy 2.0 project is publicly funded. The private sector should hold the key to keeping Liddell station open.

The Monash Forum sees a chance for the Coalition to sharpen its policy differences with an ALP wedded to a carbon price and national 50 per cent renewable target that would put extra upward pressure on prices and threaten reliability.

If the Turnbull government can strongly prioritise affordability and reliability over climate gestures it will put a compelling choice to voters. Mr Turnbull, however, remains steadfastly committed to the Paris Agreement emissions reduction target. No doubt the Monash Forum will push the Coalition to abandon or downplay this aim in order to focus on costs.

This is a volatile debate coming to a head at the same time Mr Turnbull has to confront his KPI of 30 losing Newspolls. Amid Climate and energy arguments, Mr Abbott took the leadership from Mr Turnbull nine years ago.

It also played a prominent role in the political demise of Labor’s prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard before it helped propel Mr Abbott into government. Mr Turnbull was quick to point out the party’s position yesterday. “Well I can only say to you that our National Energy Guarantee has been endorsed by the whole partyroom, the whole Coalition partyroom,” he said. The NEG can’t be implemented until the states agree.

Now the Monash Forum wonders if the NEG provides enough economic impetus for reliable and cheap power. This group is asking for the sort of policy changes that Mr Turnbull just won’t entertain.
The Australian

Australia’s energy crisis must have Monash turning in his grave.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Our obligations to Paris distort our approach to reliable non-subsidised energy. The Monash Forum has the potential to become a replacement party for the Liberal National Coalition. With Peter Costello at it’s head.

  2. No Gary it’s not a plan anyone would want, but in the current absence of energy policy sanity on the part of either the Turnbull Government, the Labor/Greens or various state governments no prudent company or bank is going to risk the large sums needed to build new coal generation in such an unpredictable, broken electricity market.
    Just maybe a Hazelwood 2.0, be it ultra super critical (HELE) or just plain super critical, might be a small first step in getting rid of the economy killing cancer of the RET legislation and the other renewables subsidy schemes.

  3. Gary Spencer-Salt says:

    The government distorts the market with RET and now provide a new subsidy to save the market from collapse – thats a plan

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