On the same day the country’s biggest vegetable glass house project was rescued by a proposal to go to 100 per cent renewable, with wind and battery storage, former prime minister Tony Abbott has outlined his “vision” that would surely mean the death of manufacturing and industry in the country.
In a speech to the influential, ultra conservative Institute of Public Affairs, whose policy manifesto appeared to become the de-facto government schedule in the Abbott years, the member for Warringah unveiled a sweeping series of policies he says the Coalition should adopt to rebuild trust with conservative voters.
According to a report in Fairfax Media, the three energy policy measures were:
- freezing the renewable energy target at 15 per cent;
- a moratorium on new wind farms’
- and for the federal government to potentially “go it alone” and build a new coal-fired power station – ostensibly to put downward pressure on power prices.
According to Fairfax Media, Abbott also called for immigration to be temporarily slashed to put downward pressure on house prices and upward pressure on wages. He also advocated banning all new spending except on defence and infrastructure.
The energy policy highlights the problems that the Turnbull government has in passing even moderate proposals such as the clean energy target, and other rules proposed by the Finkel Review, through the Coalition party room.
This is despite yet more surveys showing overwhelming support for an energy system dominated by renewables, a prospect increasingly embraced by industrial users as they face the soaring costs of a system dependent on fossil fuels.
Abbott leads a substantial rump on far right, climate denying, fossil-fuel believers that is convinced the only way to energy security and low prices is by building more coal generation and stopping renewable energy generation in its tracks. It is getting plenty of support in the Murdoch media.
This is despite the Finkel Review’s own conclusions that wind and solar are far cheaper than either coal or gas-fired generation, including if battery storage or “firming capacity” was added.
This is backed up by real-life experience, the plunging cost of contacts, and some such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance think Finkel got its numbers broadly right, but still highly conservative.
As if to prove the point, a new solar farm is to be built in Queensland at less than half the cost modelled by the Finkel Review.
And on Tuesday, a massive $350 million investment in a state-of-the-art hydroponic vegetable growing facility in western Victoria has been rescued by a contract to supply it with wind and battery storage.
The facility was about to be cancelled because of the soaring cost of gas, but having locked in prices under its 100 per cent renewable scenario, it will now go ahead with some 1,300 jobs and the largest such facility in the country, supplying markets in Australia and overseas.
Abbott, whose period in power was marked by the scrapping of the carbon price and a three-year freeze in renewable energy investment as he sought to scrap, and then reduce the renewable energy target, wants to put a stop to this.
He reckons that a government “serious about keeping the lights on should get another big coal-fired power station into action as soon as possible, and be prepared to “go it alone” if “political risk means the market won’t do it”.
“Maintaining that Labor will put power prices up and that the Coalition will put power prices down will be much harder, though, if our renewable-energy target goes from 23 per cent to 42 per cent, as flagged in [the] Finkel [review],” he said, according to the Fairfax report.
“We should stop any further subsidised renewable power and freeze the Renewable Energy Target at the current level of about 15 per cent.”