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States threaten to go it alone on clean energy as Coalition loses plot

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State energy ministers are threatening to “go it alone” with a clean energy target, as they ramp up pressure on the Coalition government, which is fracturing from the hard right response to the Finkel Review and the prospect of a growing share of wind and solar power.

The debate over clean energy sank to a new low when the head of the Coalition’s environment and energy committee warned that “people would die” from the increased costs imposed by renewable energy, earning a sharp rebuke from Labor.

The states made it clear on Thursday that if the federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg was unable to commit to a clean energy target at Friday’s COAG meeting, then they would look to establish one themselves, and would commission the Australian Energy Market Commission to study how this might be done.

“Enough is enough,” South Australia energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said. “The federal government must endorse chief scientist Alan Finkel’s recommendation to implement a market mechanism that drives investment in new generation, or the States will do it for them.

“The only thing standing in the way of lower prices, improved grid security and meeting our carbon reduction commitments is a divided federal Liberal Party that is completely beholden to the coal lobby.”

The states, energy companies, the market operator and consumer groups are pleading for the government to show some policy leadership, but although it has committed to 49 out of 50 recommendations for the Finkel Review, it has baulked at the CET.

Frydenberg admitted this week it was because the “internal processes” had not been finalised. This is a clear reference to the push back by conservatives within the Coalition and outside commentators, on everything from clean energy to clean cars, and even battery storage.

Craig Kelly, the climate-science denying head of the Coalition’s environment and energy committee, was on ABC Radio on Thursday morning blaming renewable energy for the recent electricity cost increases, when it is clear to everyone else that it is the fault of rising gas prices, and market gaming by the big generators.

“People will die,” Kelly said. “It’s because of policies we have which push up the price of electricity … there are $3 billion paid in subsidies for renewable energy. that pushes up prices of energy for the consumer.”

Little matter that numerous reports, including those commissioned by the Abbott government, found that renewable energy policies had minimal impact on consumer bills, and significantly reduced wholesale prices.

But the conservatives are determined to push back against anything that means change – including against wind farms and solar panels, and railing against battery storage, clean energy targets, and even vehicle efficiency standards, despite the obvious savings for consumers.

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The Australia Institute released yet another report on Thursday which found, as many have before it, that the biggest impact on electricity prices was not wind energy, but the rising cost of gas.

It said this is particularly true of South Australia, the state with the highest proportion of wind energy (near 50 per cent). The TAI said the state had always experienced high wholesale prices because of its reliance on gas, even before wind energy had a major presence.

Resources minister Matt Canavan, like Kelly a strong supporter of new government-funded coal fired generators, attracted ridicule when he responded to Queensland’s newly announced zero emissions target for 2050 by tweeting: Stop trying to save the planet.”

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Professor Ross Garnaut last week noted how wind energy was pushing prices down in the state, and when wind power was strongest, the prices averaged either very low or in negative territory.

However, noted last week that, although the ability to do that has been reduced in recent weeks by the introduction of a new rule that requires more gas generators to run as more wind is produced. The industry does not expect this to be a long-term requirement, however.

The Labor states have high renewable energy target ambitions. South Australia has already met its 50 per cent renewable energy target, nearly a decade early, Victoria is aiming for 40 per cent by 2025, while Queensland and the Northern Territory are both pushing for 50 per cent by 2030.

The ACT is on track for 100 per cent renewables by 2020, and the new Labor government has lifted the drawbridge in WA with some 1,000MW of large-scale wind and solar queuing for grid approvals after an effective ban in the last three years.

If Frydenberg was hoping for sympathy from the one Coalition government on the mainland, NSW, then he will be disappointed, with that state’s energy minister Don Harwin late last month outlining the sort of climate and clean energy vision once expected from prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

There is a theory that Turnbull, having satisfied his ego by lasting longer as PM than the man he displaced, Tony Abbott, might then consider his longer term legacy by finally pursuing some of the climate and clean energy policies he espoused as the former opposition leader, and dumping those he once described as “bullshit”.

(Hear our podcast with Labor’s climate spokesman Mark Butler on this issue).

That anniversary – of lasting longer than Abbott – comes on September 12. But Kelly’s remarks, along with those in the Murdoch media in recent weeks, suggest the Hard Right might prefer to lose power than see their government encourage things as awful as clean energy, modern grid with battery storage and efficient cars.

The Finkel Review outlines a pathway to 42 per cent renewable energy through the CET, but any target hardened by a real commitment to the Paris climate deal will inevitably result in a much greater share of wind and solar energy. This appears all too much for the conservatives.

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, who got out a shovel for a sod-turning ceremony for a solar farm this week, said he would support a CET if it resulted in new coal plants. He also expressed his support for nuclear energy and “big new dams along the coast”.

Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey said the federal Coalition was “an absolute rabble” when it came to energy.

“The federal policy around the RET (renewable energy target) finishes in 2020,” Bailey told ABC’s Radio National breakfast program. “When it comes to lead-in times for energy infrastructure, that’s a blink of an eyelid. We need to get on with this, give certainty to replace this old kit that is coming out of system.

“If the federal government is not going to get on with it, then it might be up to the states again to drive energy policy.”

Bailey said he had held discussions with Victoria energy minister Lily d’Ambrosio about approaching the AEMC on getting a state-based clean energy target, and South Australia is also clearly on board. D’Ambrosio told The Guardian that the delays were “appalling”.

“The time to act is now,” said Koutsantonis. “Australian households and businesses cannot be held hostage by the impotence of the federal Liberal government.”

  

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  • Rob

    Go the States!

    • JoeR_AUS

      Hmm

      The same ones who decommission there power plants!

      So when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow… they all just depend on the national grid to get them through and then complain they get charged a premium – eat the cake and have it.

      The problem is the 5 layers of government: council, 2 State, 2 Federal, then throw in the bureaucracy on top and then you wander why the public does not engage or we cannot get consensus.

      We really need to streamline the whole process and have 1 layer responsible, no if or buts! One layer of government who will take the full responsibility and shoulder that burden and then we can hold them fully accountable.

      Australia is just too small population wise and the Government not agile enough, especially in a Global economy.

      • David Mitchell

        Could you point me to a State owned power plant on the East Coast which has closed recently? Hazelwood owned by Engie and Northern owned by Alinta. It’s private companies closing unviable assets.

        • JoeR_AUS

          International Power plc purchased Hazelwood Power Station and the adjoining mine from the Victorian Government in 1996 with an expected 40-year life.

          So, just because you sold it you still have responsibility to supply power to VIC – you cannot opt out – its not like it was going to run for ever!

          This is a good example of how governments sell assets that the next era has to now deal with…..

          • Rod

            By your reasoning the current Government is responsible for actions a Government took in 1996?
            Many in SA think the same but of course it is a nonsense.

          • JoeR_AUS

            Current Government is not Responsible for the actions taken in 1996.

            However, responsible to take action – as thats why they are there and elected for!

            Big difference!

          • Rod

            So, you are saying Nationalise the energy sector?
            Couldn’t do any worse than the current debacle.

          • JoeR_AUS

            I would advocate to move Energy. Education, Health, Police all to Federal level as Australia does not need 8 different ways/rules to do the same thing. Therefore single laws across Australia.

            So States would go, councils would step up and Administer Schools, Hospitals and receive GST, Stamp duty. This would facilitate where the population grows the money would stay in that local specific area – a big sore point for many!

            It would be a challenge to change Federation but we no longer need 200+/8 Councils and States-Territories any more.

            Importantly your Federal member would be it full stop and that person would come from your elected council from your local area.

          • Roger Brown

            Did you know that Hazelwood was sold by the Liberal Party ? So you now want to nationalize the worn out power station , that costs more to run and was loosing money ?

          • JoeR_AUS

            It really does not make any difference or concern which party sold it in 1996.

            As the life of any infrastructure passes, alternatives need to be found – and not wait till after they are closed. If you had one layer of government responsible there could be no buck passing.

          • Rob G

            Well there was a plan to replace via the so called ‘carbon tax’. Investing money out of the old and into the new. Then some chap by the name of Tony Abbott decided to politicise things for his own gain and Sh#t hit the fan. We’re still mopping up the mess. While not perfect, the states have tried to restore some common sense back into the mix. Big bills and a gap between infrastructure is the price we all pay for the Abbott stunt.

          • Alastair Leith

            Was it losing money? Just because there were no buyers doesn’t mean it was lose making, just that it was high risk and came with very costly remediation requirements.

            Environment Victoria often asserted it could continue to run profitably for another couple of decades (being fully amortised and assuming no carbon price or improvement in air quality legislation), not sure where they got their numbers on that. Engie sort sale and failing that decommissions on principled grounds around Climate risk, ironic outcome give that it’s so hard for governments around Australia Victoria included to take a principled position mandated coal closure.

      • Coley

        Apply to join the EU, they are about to have a vacancy-;)

  • lin

    Our federal government is a boil on the arse of progress, and the conservative rump of the “Libs” that block fact and evidence based policy are fools to themselves and a burden to others. We can only hope the electorate remembers this at the next election and consigns them to political oblivion.

  • Tom

    If VIC, QLD, NSW, SA, and WA secede, the Federal Govt. can be in charge of TAS and NT

    • Charles

      Hey, even the Tas Liberal Party are supportive of renewable energy!

      • Tom

        Tas Liberal Party says they’re supportive of renewable energy, but they’ve done absolutely nothing about it, and have got no idea how to manage our amazing storage infrastructure to maximum benefit. Tas Labor is just as useless.

        Both sides of governments’ entire economic strategy seems to be to ask for billion-dollar barrels of pork from the federal government for “second Basslinks” or “pumped mega-hydro” or something like that, while managing our existing infrastructure at about 20% of its current ability.

        • Charles

          Certainly neither party is spruiking coal like the federal government is.

          • Tom

            Fair call Charles – can’t argue with that.

            I just wanted to point out that they’re not all angels down here either.

        • Roger Brown

          When I hear them talk (LNP), just spin the story they said ,180 degrees. That’s what they do , say 1 thing and do the opposite , eg , No cuts to health , education, ABC , SBS etc etc etc

        • Tom

          Oi mate that’s my name

    • Colin

      Lol.

    • Rob G

      Remember NT has a 50% renewable target too and TAS is in the process of upping their own renewables. Talk about being isolated, our federal government is looking like Trump at the G20 (G19 after the conference).

  • MaxG

    I always say, do not forget the voters! A majority of people is supporting this mob… the electorate is therefore as stupid as their leaders.

    • Colin

      Not if the polls are to be believed.

      They’ve lost the people and I can’t see them returning by 2019.

      • MaxG

        Well, sorry, I wasn’t clear enough… the people certainly voted them in, and even if the latest vote is 55:45 in favour for the ALP, or whatever the ratio — there is still a significant number voting for these looneys.

        • The problem is the conservatives and their shock jock commentators are hammering RE and climate change 24/7 with little or no real facts.
          The pro RE lobby need to get their facts (real facts) together and start pushing it out 24/7 and fight the miss information at every turn. The voters WILL understand it if the case is prosecuted properly!

          • solarguy

            I get on the radio frequently and tell the facts, but no one’s listing. If some one else comes on with the same message as me…….. same result, were simply not believed.

          • Rod

            I bang on in the local Murdoch online forums. Lots of people who have no idea spreading fake news.
            You just live in hope that there might be some voters out there with the ability to see through the BS

          • Coley

            No, they should fight fire with fire, and when the shock jocks and hard right politicians come out spouting rubbish they should be told in no uncertain terms that they are talking an absolute load of shyte.
            The RE lobby has wasted far to much time trying to be reasonable and polite, and it ends up losing the interest of the general public
            A scenario, right wing politician “this drive for renewable energy is costing the public millions” RE advocate, “naw mate, it’s you and your thieving mates in the gas and coal industry, that are driving prices up and poising people with your backhand deals” give a few quotes about donations to RW politicians from the FF industry, the damage to the GBR, effects on tourism etc.
            Stop being polite, put the boot into the lying bastards.

          • Marg1

            Spot on!

          • solarguy

            I did exactly that the other night on the 2SM radio network. The host couldn’t handle it talked right over me rude bastard and then cut me off….. insolent prick didn’t like being challenged.

          • Alastair Leith

            The RE industry is completely bad publicity averse, the individual companies don’t want their share price effected or any reputational damage. If they had more aggression they’d fund a PR unit to fight harder just like the minerals, farming and every other lobby in the money in Australia does. They’re playing a waiting game bc they know in the end RE will win on price alone, but we have tipped certain catastrophic climatic tipping points by then, if we haven’t already.

          • hydrophilia

            Facts apparently don’t matter any more now that we have lots of sources to support our previous beliefs: just look at the USA idiocy. Not sure of a good solution…

          • Alastair Leith

            It’s mostly the over 45s. More concerned about their super than their children’s future. Young people get it but are demoralised by the evidence of just how corrupt our political system is. Some fight, most look away.

      • Matthew O’Brien

        Democratically insignificant.

        All those guys – Abbott, Abetz, Canavan, Dutton, Frydo, Girly Man, That Ridiculous Windsor Knotted Victorian MP Boy-Conservative (especially him) – they all end up joining Bernardi and with help from the likes of Queen Flint, Credlin and the Murdoch press, carry on shouting from the thin end of every debate about their increasingly unpopular and irrelevant views and pushing their Greed Agenda – thinly veiled with racist, fear mongering dead cat policy proposals.

        Seriously – Will these loonies end up in a party of their own, chewing through each other’s ill gotten gains for funding? Could the remainder of the Liberal Party just give up trying to be different and end up merging with the Labour Party into a big old home branded love fest?

    • Alastair Leith

      Yeah but did shorten offer any serious alternatives or campaigning or leadership on these issues to justify a contest around CC and RE?

      • MaxG

        As I said elsewhere: Those who follow my posts know that I was a an ALP voter; due to the
        lack of viable alternatives. I like Keating; however, no matter what we like,
        everything has two sides; we are good at some and not so good at others
        — just human nature; I included. What killed my support for the ALP was
        Keating’s privatisations run (initiated by the Hilmer report), further
        propagated by the labour states; e.g. privatising electricity… all
        these actions I see a betrayal of the public, and as engagement in the
        same neoliberalism, which is the core foundation of the LNP agenda…
        trade agreements are just another outcrop of said neoliberalism.
        It’s not about TurnBott or Shorten, one as bad as the other when it comes to actually do what is good for humanity (or more specific the Australian public) … only the Greens’ agenda fits that bill… but they have a different problem, which does not get them beyond the 6% core voters.

  • RobSa

    I might move to the ACT in 2020.

    • Charles Hunter

      Speaking as someone who left the ACT recently after having spent 35 years there, do your research first. The rates (both on land and water) are double what you pay anywhere else, plus you have to put up with a bunch of toy-town local pollies who like to spend the revenue thus raised on wonderful projects like “City to the Lake”, which is code for trying to replicate Bondi beach on Lake Burley Griffin. Will even come complete with sewage courtesy of ancient “treatment” works at Queanbeyan which overflow into the Lake any time there’s serious rain.

      • Chris Fraser

        It’s a fun fact, but I always thought that Queanbeyan was downstream of LBG. Pong !

        • Charles Hunter

          Nope. Think of it like this. The Molonglo sort of parallels Captains Flat road in NSW before crossing into the ACT under the Kings Highway roughly 2/3 of the distance between Queanbeyan and Bungendore. The next time you see the Molonglo is when it passes under the bridge at Pialligo Avenue (just before Pialligo Avenue becomes Yass Road and passes under the railway bridge on the way into Queanbeyan). Slightly downstream (ie towards Canberra) of Pialligo Avenue is the confluence with the Queanbeyan River which, as well as winding through much of Queanbeyan is, further upstream, the source of most of the water for Googong Dam. The Molonglo (now augmented with Queanbeyan River water, plus occasional surprises from the treatment works) meanders around Dairy Flat before getting to the eastern end of Lake Burley Griffin. The waters of LBG are retained at its western end by Scrivener Dam. Downstream of the dam, the Molonglo flows south-west for a short distance before turning to flow north-west until it joins the Murrumbidgee. Another Aussie Rivers fun fact which is commonly misunderstood is that the Murrumbidgee flows NORTH all the way to Lake Burrinjuck. It’s only after hitting the Burrinjuck dam wall and passing through its 28MW hydropower turbines to generate some renewables (bet the COALition don’t know that) that the Murrumbidgee flows west to Gundagai, Wagga Wagga, Narrandera and Hay. Between Hay and Balranald is the confluence with the Lachlan River, before the whole lot join the Murray near Boundary Bend.

      • George Darroch

        Plus it has the worst public transport of any rich-country city I’ve lived in. The tram will improve things a little, if you live and work near the tram.

  • Tim Forcey

    Don’t die. The cheapest way to heat your home is with, wait for it…, renewable energy!

    Of course I am talking about renewable-ambient-heat-harvesting heat pumps, also known as reverse-cycle air conditioners in these here parts.

    https://theconversation.com/the-cheapest-way-to-heat-your-home-with-renewable-energy-just-flick-a-switch-47087

    • Rod

      Just deleted a god awful ugly standing gas heater in a rental I am refreshing.
      While I was painting, (and it was 6C outside) I had the heater going flat out and it barely kept a largish lounge room at 15C
      When the sparkies commissioned the AC they had it on to test it and it heated the room to well over 15C in about 5 minutes!!

      PS How do they start it from cold without damaging the crank case heater?
      PPS It came with it’s own supply cut off on the external wall. Is this a requirement now?

      • Tim Forcey

        Rod: Feel free to post your questions at the public facebook group My Efficient Electric Home. Up to 1,500 members now. Lively ongoing polite and professional discussions. https://www.facebook.com/groups/996387660405677/

      • solarguy

        Yep the isolator is a requirement now and the crank case heater would have done it’s job before it started up, doesn’t take long.

        • Rod

          Thanks solarguy,
          I used to manually manage the crankcase heater but got spooked by talk of damage to the unit by not giving it long enough to heat up.
          Really hard to get a definite answer.
          I read something about a patent that would automatically manage crankcase heaters but I’m sure the FF brigade wouldn’t want that to succeed.

  • solarguy

    If the feds were parents and their baby was crying from hunger, they would refuse to feed it, believing that it would do no good. That’s how idiotic they have become.

    States, by all means get cracking now!

    • MrMauricio

      they certainly wouldnt vaccinate it and would educate it at their loony home!!!

      • solarguy

        LOL, too right!!

  • Rod

    Forget Manny Paquio or whatever his name is.
    I want to see footage of the COAG meeting when this “discussion” happens.
    BTW. It is official.
    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/breaking-news/states-sign-climate-leadership-pact/news-story/fa24b588b8c84fff69db3b7c939e4546

  • bedlambay

    The Nationals and Kelly, Abetz, Abboot and other dinosaurs will not allow even a comprised CET.

  • Travis

    About time the states took control of their own power. Canberra is a complete failure. Malcolm T obviously cannot bring his chooks into line. Bring back Joh Bjelke to sort them out.

  • Gnällgubben

    Australia has the best resources probably in the world for solar with huge tracts of dirt cheap land awash with sunshine, yet when I look at the “Live Generation” applet on this page I constantly see huge black and brown coal bars. Sad, really.

    • Rod

      But it is dark outside 😉
      I am actually impressed by how much small scale solar is fed in, especially by QLD.

      • Carl Raymond S

        Batteries, hydro, thermal and P2G storage will all store the midday surplus and cover the rest. Free fuel. Can’t beat it.

      • Coley

        Actual generation is a solved problem, storage? Once that’s settled you won’t be able to give away the FF capacity-;)

        • Rod

          IMHO the Eastern Seaboard has plenty of storage (Hydro) and just need to keep it in reserve for when RE is low, allowing them to significantly increase RE levels.
          My preference these days is single axis tracking utility PV.
          Just use the Hydro to smooth out that duck curve.
          And the more I watch the NEM dispatch page, the more I am convinced that a NSW SA interconnector is needed.

  • howardpatr

    The coalitions equivalent to “imperical evidence” Senator Roberts – Craig Kelly; a spokesperson for Mad Monk Abbott.

  • Alastair Leith

    “The Labor states have high renewable energy target ambitions”

    All except for WA, who’s leadership run a mile from their party platform for 50% RE on the grid by 2030 during the election campaign (possibly anticipating a federal government deceitful fear campaign around RETs they didn’t have the stomach for countering — and which Liberal Party Senator Linda Reynolds CSC didn’t fail to deliver).

  • Don McMillan

    The states promoting to go it alone need to clarify how this is going to be attained. Renewables being unpredictably intermittent rely on supplementary energy source such as hydro, batteries or natural gas. Geologically, Australia is limited in its hydro capacity and batteries are still in the experimental stage, limited by storage and discharge
    capacity. Today, natural gas is the only reliable energy source capable of supporting renewables. Banning natural gas exploration is not conducive to the supply of affordable gas. Affordable gas must be produced locally as transportation by pipeline or LNG is expensive.
    Renewables maybe getting cheaper, but it is irrelevant if the natural gas becomes prohibitively expensive. Introducing a “clean energy target” without addressing natural gas bans and moratoriums sends a strong message that reliable and affordable electricity is not a priority.