Friday, 22 June 2018

RenewEconomy/Giles Parkinson: Coalition climate deniers play havoc again with energy

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Coalition climate deniers play havoc again with energy
By Giles Parkinson on 22 June 2018

You’d think they’d be grateful: Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg have gone to all the effort of designing a climate and energy policy that does nothing, and Tony Abbott and allies are still complaining that it does too much.

2018 is starting to feel a lot like 2009 all over again. That’s not a prediction for a party coup d’etat against Turnbull, but it does look like being a re-run of having an already hopelessly compromised policy scrapped at the last-minute by the acts of the right wing.

Abbott this week was in the party room, and on the air at 2GB, threatening to “cross the floor” because the proposed National Energy Guarantee would not result in the construction of a new coal-fired generator.

Here’s Abbott (above) walking out of the House of Representatives on Tuesday carrying a dossier marked the “Coal era is not over”, probably put together by the Monash Forum. Perhaps the one underneath is his membership to the Flat Earth Society.

Abbott demanded the Coalition back-track on the NEG, arguing it would never work if it did not include a new coal-fired power generator.

Why is this a problem?

Because, as David Leitch, the most sober of energy analysts, wrote this week:

“The NEG does nothing: It won’t lower prices, it won’t reduce the large gentailer influence, it won’t bring about the new investment required … it has no commitment to change. In short, it’s fraud as far as policy goes, or at best, a fix.”

And clearly a political fix, designed to placate an Abbott that refuses to be placated.

State and federal Labor might have been ready to play along were the policy to fit the category of “doing no harm”, but analysis from the likes of Leitch, Tristan Edis, Bruce Mountain, Dylan McConnell, Andrew Stock and many others suggest that’s exactly what it may do.

The ESB had addressed some of the initial concerns about the NEG in its second version, promising changes to avoid a further concentration of power among big retailers. But the latest version has opened up a potential hornet’s nest of issues.

Most, if not all, can be addressed, but the spirit of compromise is not alive in Canberra, given the push by Abbott, and certainly not on the most important element of the policy, the emissions reduction target.

Abbott says cutting emissions in the electricity sector by 26 per cent is too much, even though most will be met by the mechanism he tried to kill, the renewable energy target.

He was the prime minister that approved the national target of a 26-28 per cent reduction. Trump-like, he is now blaming his advisors for pulling the wool over his eyes, and the country remains without an economy-wide policy.

But the true colours of the party and its policy direction come from the one-third of National Party MPs who the AFR’s Phil Coorey wrote this week are backing Abbott, and threatening to oppose the NEG. Why cut emissions at all, they argue.

Let’s remember that the whole premise of the NEG was the pretence of bi-partisan support, particularly in the Coalition party room.

But while there is such a wide gap between the two major parties on emissions targets and renewables, and indeed climate science, there is and can be no bi-partisanship.

Even those within the Coalition who support the NEG do so only on the assumption that it will – as the ESB modelling suggests – stop renewables in their tracks.

“If this policy is not bedded down before the election we will get a Labor policy with a 50 per cent target (and) you cannot have reliability with this percentage of renewables,” National MP Mark Coultan told Fairfax.

Credit: AAP Image

The attachment of the Coalition to coal is bizarre and ill-founded. But it’s based on the fodder prepared for them by the Minerals Council of Australia, the Institute of Public Affairs, various astro-turfing groups, and the Murdoch Media.

The attacks on wind and solar are relentless.

The Australian was at it again this week with its own editorial and a contribution from economist Judith Sloan, topped by an “investigative” report from environment editor Graham Lloyd, which promoted “cheap” new coal generators, even nuclear.

The full-page article gives prominence to this graph, below, purporting to show the cost of various technologies, prepared by Solstice Services, a consultancy run by a trio of former employees of the Tarong coal generator in Queensland. And they haven’t changed their stripes.

A new coal HELE plant (the acronym stands for high efficiency, low emissions, but might more accurately be high emissions, low efficiency) is claimed to be the cheapest form of new energy, even cheaper than wind and solar, and even before you add storage.

The chart places the cost of solar and wind – the cost of solar and storage is put at up to eight times its actual cost. It’s breathtakingly misleading, and completely contrary to what anyone in the energy industry will tell you.

The problem is that the majority of Coalition MPs – and many conservatives and Murdoch readers – believe this sort of nonsense, because that’s all they are fed.

It’s hard to find much reference in The Australian to the list of industries which are turning to wind and solar, because it is cheaper – and with storage and “firming contracts” – still significantly lower than what they are charged by the fossil fuel incumbents.

Sanjeev Gutpa is to power his Whyalla steelworks with around 1GW of solar and storage, and has already written contracts to supply five other big industrial users in South Australia, primarily via a new 220MW solar farm he will built near Port Augusta.

He has already signed a contract for the Numurkah solar farm to power his steelworks in Laverton, has signed contracts with two new solar farms for other industrial users in Queensland and Victoria, and plans to build up to 10GW of solar to restore Australia’s manufacturing base.

Others to source wind and solar for all or part of their electricity needs include Sun Metals zinc refinery, brewer CUB, packaging giant Orora, Telstra, Mars Australia, CC Amatil, Nectar Farms,  Sundrop Farms and dozens of smaller businesses. These developments rate barely a mention in the Murdoch media.

Still, the nonsense is not exclusive to the Coalition right wing. The Electrical Trades Union on Thursday issued a press release slamming the decision by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to award $516 million to the world-leading Kidston solar and pumped hydro project.

“This is a sneaky, underhand way of privatising ours (sic) state assets through backdoor deals with private companies in direct contravention of the state government and state LNP’s supposed anti-privatisation policy positions,” the union said.

It’s not clear how the ETU imagines that all the wind and solar farms planned for the state under the Labor government’s 50 per cent renewable energy target will be built, if it were not for private money.

Already, 23 separate projects have been completed or under construction, and there is another 30GW in the pipeline. Now, it may be that the ETU has a very legitimate gripe about the sourcing of labour for those projects by EPC contractors, but that is a different matter.

But let’s get back to the NEG. The final details are being rushed together over the next five weeks – the technical aspects by the ESB, and the emissions targets and broader policy issues by the Coalition government.

The ACT energy minister Shane Rattenbury, a Green, fears that the agitations of Abbott and a big rump of the Coalition back bench means Frydenberg will have no room for compromise at the COAG energy minister meeting in early August.

That, he says, risks the whole thing being junked. Even if the ESB is able to iron out the technical issues from the emissions and reliability obligations, the Labor states need Frydenberg to cede ground on policy.

Frydenberg clearly won’t change the Coalition’s low ball targets, but the minimum they need is manoeuvrability to adjust those targets, control the amount of offsets, and address “additionality” – meaning that the efforts of individual states, and corporate buyers and households, are recognised.

If not, it will be back to 2009 when the CPRS, itself a compromised policy after trying to appease the conservatives, was rejected by the far right, and voted down when Labor refused to negotiate with the Greens.

And would the dumping of the NEG be so bad? It’s yet to be seen that not having the NEG will be any great loss.

And here’s another irony. Abbott, who thinks that climate science is crap, managed to halt the renewables roll-out for three years when prime minister.

Turnbull, who promised never to lead a party that didn’t take climate change seriously, is now attempting to impose an effective 10-year moratorium on those same technologies.

Note: The ESB last week released the draft of their detailed policy documents after 5pm on Friday, which as we noted then is the time traditionally used by institutions to take out their dirty washing.

The release of a further 10 detailed policy papers was flagged for this week. The latest word as we finalised our newsletter at 3pm was that: “it will be released later Friday afternoon.” More dirty washing. Not a good look. 
ACT Government • Australian Federal Government • Featured • Governments

    George Michaelson

    “they lied to me” is the answer of a desperate man. If he can be misled that simply, he wasn’t fit to occupy the office in question. Since he clearly wasn’t lied to, and either willfully ignored what was said, or now seeks to deny he said it, he lacks the moral authority we would expect for somebody in the office in question.

    Why he retains influence in the party is beyond me, because he is by his own words, condemned as unsuitable for a position of authority. On anything.

        The only ‘Liar’ is the Abbott himself. He lied about Labor’s ETS which Abbott called a Carbon Tax, which it never was.He lied about not changing The RET and proceeded to almost destroy it. He now lies about the signing of the Paris Agreement by saying is was only an ‘aspiration’ not a ‘commitment’ but he did say in the wake of signing the Paris Agreement that Australia delivers on its…..COMMITMENTS. Now he wants to blame his then bureaucrats for having signed the Paris Agreement in the first place. The dude is a disgrace and should just get out of Parliament…after he takes Turnbull down in Round 3 of their leadership stoush and thereby hands the next election to Labor.
    Ben Dixon

    Bloody hell Giles, it’s back the the future. So depressing it’s almost the weekend.
    George Darroch

    Liars. There is no commercial solar in this country that costs $300MWh, and none that costs $900 with storage.

    The actual costs are about 1/6th of that. The Australian is a wicked rag that does immense damage to Australia with its perpetual printing of outright falsehoods.

        But the punters are flocking to Rupe’s Liberal Party Newsletter aka The Australian in ever increasing numbers. Every time the newspaper readership numbers are released The Australian is killing it. Sort of reminds of The Pied Piper or Lemmings going over the cliff.
            Mike Westerman

            I think the circ for the Australia is largely predicated on the numbers like me who pick up a free copy at the airport to use as mulch on our vegie patch or under the kitty litter box!
                Cooma Doug

                Its a good wipe also, in emergency.

    In SA, Sanjeev Gupta has declared a state of political bi-partisanship. It looks like it is up to the States to lead.

    Bin the Neg Joshie. Put forward number 50 of Finkel’s 50 recommendations and let’s see the Coalash forum cross the floor.
    Exactly what they think they will achieve is beyond me. Will they vote with Labor and the Greens on the Clean Energy Target.
    Andy Saunders

    “This is a sneaky, underhand way of privatising ours (sic) state assets”

    That would be news to Genex shareholders…

    The ETU must be the last Marxist dinosaur left, if they believe that everything in the state rightfully belongs to the government.
    Andy Saunders

    The graph of power costs is from Solstice Development Services, whose website mentions all three principals of the firm are ex Tarong Energy.

    They should be careful – this sort of thing can badly backfire with their reputation.

    One of their claimed recent assignments is “Commercial evaluation of competing low emissions technology projects incorporating carbon capture and storage (CCS).” I wonder how that went for them?

        They would just make it up like their graph.

    Hi All, I am not certain that babbott has the numbers to displace 2 toungs , so it must be about time to call babbott out. Lots of farmers know about climate change (and they understand what they need to do to change things) and if the National Party supports the anti climate stance of babbott they will self destruct in their numbers at the next election. The sooner we have an election and most of these coal ash group go the better we will all be.

        Couldn’t agree more but i occasionally hear from cockys the yeah but we dont trust labor even though a 2 degree temperature increase will destroy farming
            Trevor Toomer

            Reminds me of a local branch meeting of what was then called the Country Party, The sitting member thanked the members for their support, always voting for him RIGHT OR WRONG.
    Ertimus J Waffle

    There’s no attack on wind and solar only undeniable facts that wind and solar energy are useless. There’s always a reason espoused by the renewable energy brigade as to why the wind turbines aren’t producing a watt of electricity and why coal fired power is a dinosaur. If Australia goes the renewable energy route no Australian will be able to afford the unreliable expensive power it produces. South Australia is the proof but the Renewable loonies wont accept the result of having a state run on sunshine and breezes with very expensive diesel burning gas turbine generators for when the wind doesn’t blow. On the 21/6/18 and 22/6/18 South Australians are paying
    $300 a MWH for their power as there isn’t any wind.

        South Australia is now a net exporter of power with all those awful wind generators and solar what to you expect it to be once the CSP and the rest of the Solar and Wind is put in place?

        Pss the back up Diesel Generators have not been used yet and I expect never will be.

            Hi John, Emergency Back Up Generators are often run about 10 minutes a week so that you know they will run if you need them. It keeps the diesel circulating (and some systems run a small pump just to keep the diesel fresh). Most have heating systems to keep the system warm (starts quicker and up to full capacity within minutes). Parramatta Telstra Exchange had 2 Diesel engines at 1.3 MW each that were kept at 40 degrees C and had to be able to be up to speed (full power mode) within 3 minutes.
        Barri Mundee

        Yes sure fake news.
    Carl Raymond S

    Mr Abbott, the coal era is over or the human era is over. Pick one.
        Barri Mundee

        And Tony Abbott’s era is also over.

            I hope your are correct however he holds a blue ribbon seat so will no doubt be back with his idiot ideas to annoy sensible thinking people for years to come.
                Barri Mundee

                I was thinking more of his relevance than his hold on his seat though I did read about a possible pre-selection challenge.

                    You are correct he has no relevance what so ever.

        Hi Carl Raymond S Babbott is a religious believer and as such “God is In control of the climate not man. I am also the next leader of the Coalition party, my friend MT is just holding my seat.”

        They say dreams are free!

    What has been the outcome from the last 6 years?
    This sums it up.
    Abbott, who thinks that climate science is crap, managed to halt the renewables roll-out for three years when prime minister.
    He was responsible for the closing down of a plant building wind turbine equipment and because of the uncertainty he caused there was a total pause on any development.
    What is happening now?
    State Governments have done the heavy lifting and it is unstoppable why?
    Because RE is cheaper short term and long term.

    What will happen is more and more Solar Wind CSP and PHES will be built near major transmission lines all over the grid and the result is going to be lower price of power.
    Why you ask ?
    Because no longer will we see $14,000 per MW prices being given to the old system of rigging the system but a steady as it goes about $50 to at most $80 a MW for power.
    Hang your heads in shame those who still cling to baseload coal which has had 59 failures this year alone causing a rise in price for wholesale power.

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