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“Shame on you:” Frydenberg admits he doesn’t have rooftop solar

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Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes

One of the most telling moments of 60 Minutes’ examination of Australia’s energy market mess on Sunday night came not from the mouth of Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, but from the federal energy minister, Josh Frydenberg.

During an interview with the Channel 9 program’s lead reporter, Liz Hayes, Frydenberg, who is also Australia’s minister for the environment, admitted that he does not have rooftop solar installed at his family home.

“Do you have solar panels?” asked Hayes at around the 22 minute mark.

JF: I don’t.

LH: Shame on you.

JF: (Laughs) It’s a big investment, and I’ve got other priorities at the moment. But certainly, I’m watching my power bill regularly. … And we’ve been paying too much.

But Frydenberg’s failure to embrace rooftop PV – even though his boss, the PM, who has both solar and battery storage at his pad – should probably be no surprise, considering his apparent disdain for new energy technology, like the 100MWh battery system Tesla is installing alongside a wind farm in South Australia.

According to Elon Musk, the sheer scale of this ground breaking 100MWh project – which he describes as “a light-bulb moment for the world” in the transition to renewable energy – should be a point of pride for Australia.

But, as Hayes points out in the interview, the federal Coalition hasn’t chosen to see it this way. Instead they have opted to play politics with the Labor SA government, and to mock the Big Battery, comparing it to the Big Banana, the Big Prawn and other outsized – and largely useless – Australian tourist attractions.

“Elon Musk’s battery was a fraction of the size of the (Turnbull government’s) Snowy Hydro Scheme,” Frydenberg told Hayes on 60 Minutes, in defense of this stance.

“It was sold to the people of South Australia as an answer to their woes by (SA Premier) Jay Weatherill, whereas in reality it is just a fraction of what that state needs.”

Still, it is surprising that Frydenberg – whose home base is in Melbourne and who, like the rest of us, is paying too much for his electricity – hasn’t taken up rooftop solar.

Even avowed climate sceptic and arch-conservative South Australian Senator, Corey Bernadi, has put 12kW on his roof.

Maybe he is waiting to plug into Snowy Hydro 2.0.  

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  • Joe

    Hello and thank you Sophie. Yes, I too watched Liz Hayes with the Elon and the Joshie. Did I detect a moment of emotion, a quiver of the lip, on the Elon’s face when Liz Hayes said to him that people were going without food to make their finances meet their power bills. To me he looked shocked to hear that things could come to that. Whereas the Elon is here to help you can’t say that about Joshie who came across as still wanting to carry on with the silly political games over energy policy. Joshie couldn’t resist the chance with another dig / take down on Elon’s Big Battery in South Australia. You get nothing positive from Joshie. The Elon has the ideas and plans and he is building it. I’m with the Elon.

    • Scottman

      I’m with you Joe. Elon is the MAN. Not like our politician children just wanting to play games with our lives & our planet, boo to the polies.
      How do we get more guys like the Elon to be so humble whilst improving everyones lives, imagine the pollies being humble to the population, that I would like to see.

  • Tim Forcey

    Relatively-affluent folks living in Melbourne’s leafy suburbs might not have solar PV on their roof if they have a) slate roof, b) tree-shading issues, c) the best roof (north) space taken up with solar-thermal pool heating, d). the best roof space facing the street and therefore neighbourhood visual amenity & heritage issues e) disdain for renewable energy.

    One option, if folks with such homes are interested in harvesting the sun’s energy more than currently, is to use heat pumps to heat water and/or living spaces. Heat pumps: renewable-solar-energy collectors that you don’t have to install on your roof.

    • Frank Forster

      Well said; makes sense to migrate from gas network, and maybe use renewable energy that is being generated from solar panels on the next door neighbour’s property when they are away at work all day

      • Alastair Leith

        Or on working class peoples roofs in West Heidelberg who are both out at work trying to feed their kids and afford necessities.

  • Roger Franklin

    My guess is that Tony has not got Solar either along with many of the other FIFO workers in Canberra. Interesting when you consider the residents of Canberra and the ACT are leading the way in Solar and behind the grid batteries.

    • Joe

      Ah, the Abbott…the ‘human weatherwane’ on climate change and RE. At first he believes, then he disbelieves. But wait, then he believes again only to again disbelieve. His shapeshifting is governed by the prevailing politik at the time that best suits his political games. Has there ever been an MP, former PM at that who has so recklessly and disgracefully behaved.

      • Alastair Leith

        What actually is a “human weather vane”? Checked wikipedia and a synonym is weather cock, getting closer i think, perhaps feather duster are the words he was looking for?

    • Peter Campbell

      “Interesting when you consider the residents of Canberra and the ACT are leading the way in Solar and behind the grid batteries.”
      And we have all contracts signed for 100% renewable. 40% already.
      Now moving on to promoting EVs, as transport is the ACT’s next biggest source of emissions: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-30/electric-cars-parking-canberra-environment/9100254 and the video from 14.27 here: http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/abc-news-act/NN1701C259S00#

  • maxlyrical

    In my observation, the very wealthy and socialites rarely have solar. It may be a boast that they can easily afford to pay power bills. Also one of these once described them as ‘ugly’ and didn’t want them on her roof.
    Renters don’t get them. The poor can’t afford them. The rich don’t want them. I think, if you look, you’ll find it middle income families doing most of it.

    • trackdaze

      Ex investment banker Turncoat has them.

      • Joe

        ..plus the home battery storages as well!

        • Brian Tehan

          It’s down to Turnbull’s son,apparently. He’s obviously a bit of a technology nerd – and good on him. Shame his dad doesn’t listen to him – or anyone else.

          • Rebecca

            Much too many blows to the head & it shows.

    • RobS

      A $2-3,000 saving is fairly insignificant if you’ve got a $3-500,000 annual household budget, whereas $2-3k out of a $30-50k budget is huge. Research shows time and time again low socioeconomic post codes have put in solar panels at far higher rates than wealthy postcodes because it saves enough money to make a difference to their households.

      • Alastair Leith

        Don’t tell Julia Gillard, she called FiTs and STCs upper class welfare supported by Labor’s “working families”.

    • Alastair Leith

      At a recent Synergy presentation to YEP we were treated to the information that the CEO of Synergy is owner of three properties, one in Perth two down in the south-west and his city bill is in the many thousands range, and yet hasn’t found time to install solar would you believe. Did I mention he’s the CEO of the states monopoly gentailer, coincidence surely that WA hasn’t seen a wind farm of note constructed since Collgar ~2010?

      (The point of sharing this info was that if energy retailing was “cost reflective” then his city bills would be less than his farm and holiday house bulls but they aren’t. You could say the same about water and charge people on the other side of town to the reservoirs 25 times what you charge locals around the receivers so there’s limits to this economists wet dream of cost reflectivity I think. Especially when discretionary decisions about future wind farms will be less about capacity factors and more about politics and existing network infrastructure)

  • trackdaze

    So the LNP energy and environment minister doesn’t have solar or batteries on his roof.

    No surprises.

    • Joe

      …perhaps on purpose…showing solidarity with King Coal, yes.

  • technerdx6000

    Why is he so red in the face? Maybe because he knows HE IS WRONG.

    • Rebecca

      Embarrassment perhaps if he really thought about what he is doing.

  • Alastair Leith

    Hey Josh, Will Snowy 2,0 be ready by Christmas? Ready by Christmas 2020?, Xmas 2025? If the transmission line goes down will it be isolated from the NEM, unlike, say fifteen, distributed PHES systems one fifteenth of the size not built in national parks and not built in river valleys? Did you do you economic cost benefit analysis and comparison between the two PHES options, one big Snowy 2.0 and 15 smaller ones summing to the same capacity but located around the grid (where they are needed)?

    • Rod

      Agreed, every time they spout Snowy 2.0, they should be asked, when?, how much?

    • Cooma Doug

      You can come to the same power as snowy 2 with 20 of those batteries. But you need 1500 to acheive the same energy of over 150 GWHrs.
      15 batteries provede 1.5 GWHs.
      We are talking about two concepts. One is more effective in many aspects because of the fact it is spread across the system and can be used in many ways to support stability.

      I believe the snowy 2 is also located in an ideal location given the nature of the grid and NSW / VIC. Snowy 2 is also capable of propping up the system during the transition in ways the batteries can not on the early days. There will be a long time before we have the load side options and technology that adaquately capture the full advantage of the large battery systems in key locations around the states.

      The NEG and recent government talk suggests they are determined to stop that process. But Snowy 2 is a viable and major opportunity going forward. There are ways it too will accommodate the new technologies as effectively as batteries. Most folk involved in the grid management agree that both are vital.
      If the government go ahead and build a large coal generator I will, like most, be 100% ashamed and annoyed. If they go ahead with Snowy 2 and more batteries I will be happy.
      Both are the way to go. I have no doubt at the moment.

      • Jonathan Prendergast

        Will Snowy 2.0 help SA this summer? No. That is why the comparison is ridiculous.

      • Mike Westerman

        Doug the problem is that SA is the state that needs grid support, both with inertia and storage, and Turnbull if he wasn’t such an ideological hypocrite would have supported PHES in SA, not Snowy 2. Snowy 2 is an engineer’s dream but I doubt anyone will prove it to be a priority or economic in the current NEM or even in 10y time. The LNP support for Snowy 2 is just the latest in a long line of incompetence and ideologically motivated vacillation on almost all fronts you could think of.

        • Alastair Leith

          The original Snowy scheme was always about (stealing/redirecting) water for irrigation from one watershed to another much more than it was about power. The economics of it around power generation always had it in the white elephant basket, “national building” project or not.

          • Mike Westerman

            I don’t think you can say that Alastair: it makes money on caps without water transfer. No doubt state support was contingent on water transfer – that is very apparent in early films about it, but even with the cut back in transfers, and significantly increased Snowy releases, it is still making a good profit. It could do better if transmission constraints, that exist between every state in the NEM, could be eased.

          • Alastair Leith

            I didn’t say it, an economist who wrote a book about it did in a doco on the Snowy I watched 🙂

          • Mike Westerman

            Between economists and lawyers, what can I say! Both experts at delaying the inevitable and disbelieving the obvious.

          • Cooma Doug

            There is a fundamental rule that is applied to all snowy waterways dams and power stations. In the event of floods and weather events much is done to conserve the excess water. However the releases into the rivers are managed so that the changes in flows are as they would be had the snowy scheme not been built. Much has been done to moniter and provide control awarrness of these flow limits in floods and snow season thaws.This rule is applied when dams are spilling in floods. So for example, when Blowering dam is full on spill, the generator must be shut down to ensure the dam release and resulting tiver flow is as per that rule.
            It is true that snowy was constructed as a water system and the electricity is extra.
            The good thing about Snowy 2 is that these rules will not apply to it
            In a way that will greatly hamper the function.
            There are no environmental imacts in this project that I can see. The only things in the way that I can imagine at the moment are politicians in Canberra.

          • yep

            Giles Parkinson
            Editor
            http://www.RenewEconomy.com.au http://www.OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au
            61 (418 754 651)
            Skype:giles.parkinson2

          • Cooma Doug

            Yep

          • Mike Westerman

            Doug there may not be a change in flow from Snowy 2 but an enormous amount of additional energy will be added to the Tantangara Reservoir from daily cycling, and significantly biased to winter when run of river flows are low. Mixing and remixing of biologically different water is also going to significantly change the biology of Tantangara and it’s surrounds. The 80km of access roads is going to impact on the NP. Emissions during construction are going to be significant.

            It might at some stage be valuable to have very long term pumped hydro reserve like Snowy 2 but I’ve not seen adequate justification for it. Whereas I can see tremendous value in having several GW sized PHES schemes along the east coast, and half a dozen small schemes in SA. Tas needs to grossly overdevelop their wind resources before they need a scheme but it will come if Basslink 2 does. So apart from my environmental concerns on Snowy 2, and doubts about its financial justification, I just see it as low priority compared to many other possible schemes.

          • Cooma Doug

            There are very few sites if any that come anywhere near the head, already in place in Snowy 2.
            “A GW PHES that will deliver a gw”…Allowing a generous head for the thought, you will require a flow of 400 cubic metres per second. That is 4 times the maximum flow of a major river.
            You are not going to get near a GW hydro system without major process. 10 years just passing around the paper work.
            We will see in future some small scale hydro pump storage systems that are in synergy with a grid that functions in small despersed areas. Not separate from the grid but focussed locally and encouraged that way by the market rules.

            The snowy 2 dams are there already. The head is huge. Much of the roads required are there already and may need up grade. The power station infrastructure will be mostly underground.
            There are many rules in place across snowy infrastructure that limit the rate of drawdown of the dams…there are metres per hour and per day of drawdown that were established from years of research. Tantangara dam is of such size that these issues will not be a serious impact. The head is higher than any other power station and so the flows per MW are significantly less than the other power stations.

            A situation where all of the Snowy 2 storage would be required in 1 event is not a reasonable expectation. Large chunks in the transition period to the despersed battery and small hydro concept but not an ongoing expectation.

            The most significant asset of Snowy 2 is the ability to store excess wind and solar and load shift. Im suggesting here that when the appropriate market rule changes are applied the airspace in Tantangara will be of the same value as the energy.

            The market does change everything and unexpected assets will appear in the next few years.

          • Mike Westerman

            Doug – Apsley had a full FS done in early ’80s and altho the lower dam site for that is not available the alternative on a side gully is, outside NP, suitable for over 1GW for 10-15h, >800m head; Mt Byron is good for 1GW for 6h+ and the land is already owned by Powerlink, PFS complete; Brown Mtn was identified by not much work done 900m head; Ovens Mtn had PFS. All these were done at about the same time as Tantangara-Talbingo original study. All could be developed outside NPs with low environmental impact.

            The issue with Tantangara is not the volume of water but that most of the losses in pumping will end up in the water, water that is being warmed by passing thru rock which in winter is much warmer than ambient, from Talbingo where the water is warmer anyway. So significant amounts of much warmer water are discharged in to Tantangara daily, and will tend to float on the surface leading to a significant increase in temperature over the lake.

            Meanwhile, no solution to SA security or diurnal storage needs and limited impact on long term seasonal variation from wind. No value in storing Qld solar for NSW load balancing. For network security the storage needs to be close to the load. So what is the value add?

          • Cooma Doug

            At the moment, energy from Snowy is first in line to correct most frequency excursions. Its not happening at the area near the failed coal gen or the messed up transmission line. The snowy energy is bid into the market as FCAS and is initiated by the frequency level. Some events in the future may have load side responses also bid in and they may be first pick and bid in at lower prices and higher frequency.

            Snowy is already 5000mwh of storage with the dams half empty. It doesn’t matter where you put the shoulder to the wheel. You can manage the frequency.

            For sure it is better if we can respond in milli seconds at or near the location and this is where it is going to happen in years to come. This will reduce power swings and increase the value of assets in homes and industrial loads.

      • Brian Tehan

        Batteries and pumped hydro really fulfill different needs. Batteries provide instantaneous response and grid stability, whereas pumped hydro can provide dispatchable power over longer periods. As many others have said, it would be better and cheaper to build a number of pumped hydro installations around the country, rather than one huge scheme. Turnbull has decided on Snowy River 2 and, as always, he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room – but he’s proven time and time again that he’s not.

      • Alastair Leith

        I wasn’t for a minute suggesting batteries and Snowy 2.0 are the same thing. Sorry if it read that way (I just checked and I don’t think it did!). Was asking where’s the cost benefit analysis comparison comparing distributed PHES at fifteen locations with Snowy 2.0 (which had already failed the value threshold on a prior economic CBA run by someone or other), and then contrast PHES with batteries, complimentary I’d think. Andrew Blakers has said Tumult 3 makes little sense when compared with distributed turkey nest PHES. My guess is that Trunbul and co are hoping it will keep coal running in the Hunter valley for longer than it otherwise might.

      • Alex Hromas

        A few questions: will Snowy 2 be ready in time. We have less than 10 years to seriously decarbonise and it will take much longer to build. Will we need that much reserve and is it in the right place. When SMEC ran out of water in the last drought they built an open cycle gas turbine plant to cover their peak load commitments near Melbourne not Cooma.
        Would alternative schemes be cheaper. We have plenty of open cut mine pits near excellent solar resources that can be converted to pumped storage more easily. Should we be compromising our major alpine national park further. Will advances in battery technology make it obsolete by the time it is commissioned. Turnbull complete with leather jacket and chopper invoked the Snowy Scheme an icon on par with ANZAC day, great political spin but is it good engineering? I am far from sure

        • Cooma Doug

          Good questions…..a few points.

          SMEC is not Snowy Hrdro. It is a different organisation entirely.

          Snowy 2 will have potentially over 100 GWhrs of storage.

          The dams and much of the major infrastructure is already in place.

          Snowy is already a major storage of energy. There is over 500 GWhs of energy in the dams.

          Snowy is a major peaking plant in the wholesale market. The gas plant was not built because of a drought. IT was obtained by the Snowy Hydro LTD because it fits well in the maket status of Snowy Hydro and is ideally located peaking plant in the wholesale market of today. Snowy has had major gas plant in Victoria for nearly 20 years.

          Snowy is in the ideal place for major generation and or storage as well as frequency and voltage control options of the eastern grid. The location between NSW and VIC is ideal.

          There is no bettter place for such a large storage system in this grid. If such a system was built in a remote part of Vic or South Australia, it would not have the value realised in the Snowy region. Smaller storage projects are ideal in the more remote and regions with more frail intconnection.

          The market rule changes will encourage Snowy 2 pump storage and optimise the transition to renewables. Snowy 2 will be the backbone of the grid security.

          Rule changes that ecourage the prolonged retention of large base load coal plant that does not have modern flexability will block the value of Snowy 2. I dont think this is appreciated in the big white building in Canberra.

    • solarguy

      Response on behalf of Josh:

      It’s Christmas every day for our constituents, the MCA, FF lobby groups, owners of coal plant, high income earners and the Liberal party. So of course we didn’t do any cost benefit analysis, tax payers money is no object to the government, plenty to go around.

  • Ian

    How embarrassing for Josh Frydenberg. He’s a minister of the environment but he can’t do his sums regarding the cost-effectiveness of solar with current paybacks of 1 to 3 years. Or , if he did have solar he could be regarded as a hypocrite. What’s it to be hypocrite or dumbass.

    Maybe Liz Hayes should have followed this brilliant question with another: What efforts are your government making to promote Electric Vehicles and battery manufacturing., considering the world’s biggest promoter of that technology was at the same interview?

    • Peter Campbell

      “What’s it to be hypocrite or dumbass.”
      Both, I’d say, with or without PV.

  • John Burnett

    Captain Blackout is a coaly to the end. Just show why this lot are not fit to govern.

    • Caitlin1488

      you are a moron

      • Mike Westerman

        Yes well, that’s a well constructed argument!

  • The Duke

    No Gosh Friedbrainberger doesn’t but Mr Harbourside Mansion has a ton of them installed and batteries for good measure just in case there is a blackout. So much for denouncing renewables and blaming them .

    • Rebecca

      Shame he can’t find a battery to recharge his political blackout

      • Mike Westerman

        The real shame is these luddites want to stay in the dark, and want everyone else to do the same. No interest in solutions.

        • Rebecca

          No I can’t comment, I better be nice.

          • Mike Westerman

            Ah Rebecca – I’ve got kids. They may choose to have kids who will grow up in a grotesque version of the world I grew up in, unless we stop being nice and demand some fairly major shifts in human behaviour.

          • Rebecca

            Yes its very scary, I am into family values. I believe a number of people would realise I don’t have a lot of patience with idiots. No good me going into Politics. But then again I could leave them for dead in the humour dept. We have not had great orators for a long time. I’m into physiological smacks on the fingers, not sure they could handle me.

  • Barri Mundee

    We need a prize for the “Big Dickhead”. Any nominations or are there too many too choose from??

    • Joe

      ‘Aussie Matteo’ and ‘Lump of Coal Scotty’….equal favourites with ‘It’s a big investment Joshie’ pushing hard

  • Gary Rowbottom

    By his actions so shall he be judged. Not looking good Frydo. Can’t even bring himself to concede that Elon’s battery is at least a modest step in the right direction.

    • Mike Westerman

      Gary after all the discussion about what the battery is intended for, and the clear evidence from AEMO of gouging in the auxiliary servces market in SA, only idiots and the ideologically blind would maintain his position.

  • Jo

    Can you believe it? “… It’s a big investment … ” for the Energy and Environment Minister.
    How about we all chip in and help the poor Minister to get solar on the roof? Should not be too hard to get 5kW for $5000.
    And let’s add a good monitoring system for the Energy and Environment Minister to see how much CO2 emission he is avoiding AND how much coal use he is avoiding AND how much money he is saving.

    I pledge $200 for this good purpose.
    Can anyone from GetUp or SolarCitizens take over from here?

    • Rebecca

      Jo too late, I believe Adani offered first.

      • Joe

        …with a ‘portable HELE’ in the backyard?

  • john

    I know a lot of people who belong to the same party who flatly refuse to put PV on their properties, because they see it as some how making a statement that PV is somehow a political gesture.
    When people make unwise decisions based on outside influences this what happens.
    So somewhere around $5000 is a big investment compared to possibly twice the price for a good quality suit of media equipment that delivers nothing except a waste of time.

  • Ken Fabian

    Do the LNP clean energy obstructors – Frydenberg included – realise that the next big blackout will see the TV news cameras showing homes and businesses that have lights still on – because they have solar and batteries?

    Odds are against such a blackout being renewables related, but even though that won’t stop them claiming it, the numbers who will accept that unquestioningly have shrunk – mostly they are the ones that have been encouraged to reject climate science and the worth of renewable energy and have been deliberately hardened against arguments based on facts or reason. What Conservative bright sparks thought that was a good idea?

    Those that still buy the climate and emissions and renewables are “ideological” and to blame for the LNP’s policy paralysis would mostly be their hard right base – the bloc that they risk losing to Hanson’s One Nation and Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. It’s changing so fast that the numbers of people in “middle Australia” who don’t fear renewables or the loss of coal, who see emissions reductions and The Energy Transition as necessary and inevitable, have grown significantly just since the last election.

  • trackdaze

    He should be asked at each and every interview.

  • Brunel

    I think the Kodak moment for the grid is Mr Gupta deciding to slash his electricity bills by 40% by installing solar panels and storage.

  • André Balsa

    The hypocrisy of politicians is legendary. Just one more example, and a good thing he’s been exposed.

  • Robert Comerford

    I like the suggestion of a ‘big dickhead’ prize.
    Make it yearly! Two or three runner ups perhaps.
    Be hard to pick a winner , I guess but it would make a great TV event.