Abbott’s energy green paper focuses on gas, coal, nuclear

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Abbott energy green paper mentions gas 434 times, coal 100 times and nuclear 67. Storage gets 32, solar 26, and wind energy just 13 mentions.

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The long-awaited energy green paper from the Abbott government is playing to form, focusing largely on Australia’s booming gas industry and how to get more investment into extractive energy resources, so that Australia can become an energy “superpower.”

As the UN meets in New York, and bodies such as it, major investment funds and the World Bank urge a price on carbon and a rapid path to decarbonisation, the green paper makes a virtue of becoming the first country to dump a carbon price.

It also warns against “distorting” subsidies, although this seems focused more on renewables than it does on not accounting for the health and environmental impacts of fossil fuels, which the Climate Institute said today was costing $14-39 billion a year.

To get an idea of where the government sees its priorities, in the four-page executive summary, for instance, gas gets 18 mentions, coal gets four and solar gets just two. Wind energy doesn’t rate a mention. Storage is mentioned once, as is nuclear.

But in the 78-page body of the green paper, gas is mentioned 434 times. Coal is mentioned 100 times, followed by nuclear on 67. Storage gets 32, solar gets 26, and wind energy just 13 mentions.

That certainly doesn’t relate to Australia’s current energy mix, or even the future energy mix. And certainly not the decarbonised energy systems that are advocated by the likes of ClimateWorks, or even the International Energy Association.

As the Australian Conservation Foundation noted, it represents the “quarry” mentality, which explains its current coarse on the renewable energy target. “The paper presents the wrong answers to the wrong questions,” the ACF said. “The government should be asking what Australia’s energy system should look like in 10, 20 and 30 years’ time, then acting with the rest of the world to cut pollution and invest in clean energy.

But it does nothing of the sort, instead reflecting the government’s short term priorities and the basis of its thinking, which is based entirely around extractive fuels and centralised generation.

“Australia has world-class energy resources, and we must ensure that we have the right policy framework to use them to our full advantage, in an increasingly competitive global market,” Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said in a release accompanying the document.

“The Government is resetting Industry policy in Australia to build on our areas of competitive strength. The energy sector is one of those strengths and the Energy Green Paper will identify the ways in which we can improve the framework surrounding our energy assets.

“Australia has an abundance of energy resources and energy assets. We are well regarded internationally for our diverse range of energy sources and we are supplying increasing volumes of energy commodities to energy-hungry nations in the Asian region.

“We can’t afford to become complacent – Australia must also be the world’s best in how we access and utilise our energy resources.”

The green paper complains about the “barriers” being put up against coal sem gas, saying that the LNG export industry “provides an enormous opportunity for the nation’s economy. But because the conventional resources are nearly exhausted, the industry relies on access to CSG.

“Some states have regulatory and planning barriers preventing needed supply. These barriers are creating potential near-term supply shortages on the east coast, and also increasing prices. Increasing supply is the best way to ease the pressure, it says, although it also notes “increasing prices are nonetheless inevitable.”

The paper recognises, nevertheless, that technology is changing, but it claims it is doing so slowly – contrary to most independent analysis which shows that energy systems will be vastly different within a decade. This excerpt is particularly informative, and reveals how attached the Abbott government is to nuclear, and the continuing dominance of centralised systems, rather than distributed energy.

“Australia’s domestic energy sources are changing slowly, but coal still provides the largest amount of electricity. It is important that coal is used in a way that produces the most energy for the lowest emissions, but this requires major capital investment in a market that is currently oversupplied. Gas provides a lower emissions source of energy for electricity generation, but in Australia, it is increasingly becoming a more expensive fuel source than coal. Nuclear energy remains a serious consideration for future low emissions energy. Renewable energy will continue to play an important role, especially in regional and remote areas that are off the main electricity grid. The development of large-scale energy storage could be a game-changer for renewable energy, because it can smooth the intermittent supply that typifies renewable energy, and reduces the need for reliable baseload energy from other sources.”

Interestingly, the paper notes that changes in energy technologies can emerge quickly, and cites the popularity of rooftop solar. But while ClimateWorks, and even the IEA, have suggested that solar will dominate Australia’s and global energy systems, the green paper leaves it at that.

In a chapter on “electricity supply” – the green paper notes that while a lot of coal plant has only been mothballed, and not retired, it frets about the investment signals for new plant once demand might return in a decade’s time. It even notes that coal fired generators might struggle with water issues at the time of drought, and the gas supply might be absorbed by the export market. Again, there is not a single mention in this chapter of renewables.

It does acknowledge Australia’s dependence on imported liquid fuels, an enormous risk that was highlighted by a recent NRMA report. Again, the green paper says this situation “needs to be monitored” and is focused on alternatives such compressed gas, LNG, and biogas.

It concedes that electric vehicles have an advantage over these alternative fuels, but downplays EVs because of “high vehicle prices, unsophisticated sale and maintenance networks, limited recharging infrastructure, and motorists’ concerns”, such as range anxiety.

It devotes one special appendix to nuclear energy.

In short, this paper is everything it was expected to be – despite its supposed focus on the future, it is looking in the past rather, completely oblivious to global trends, technology costs and the rapid change in energy systems, not to mention the challenge of reducing emissions.

 

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18 Comments
  1. Keith 4 years ago

    It’s clear that the Government only reads a fossil fuel view of the world. It does reinforce that evidence-based decision making is not part of this Government’s modus operandi.

    How long before the anti-coal seam gas groups are defined as terrorists? This would make it easy to deal with them. Wake up Australia.

  2. Motorshack 4 years ago

    If everybody just wishes hard enough Tinkerbell won’t die.

    How nice to see that the Abbott government has such an innocent, child-like approach to policy development.

    Maybe next they’ll try being bad so Santa will leave them a lump of coal in the Christmas stocking.

  3. Col 4 years ago

    This paper just doesn’t surprise me. Gas prices will inevitably increase…of course they will and they will get more bang for their buck but exporting it. So it isn’t a viable energy solution. EV’s have a part to play in reducing imported liquid fuel. If more people use them the cheaper they will get (Tesla isn’t spending $6b on a super factory for the hell of it. Also they get excellent ranges from EV’s now and if the renewable industry was also used to serve this market and have solar powered filling stations…voila…another problem solved. This is not pie in the sky as other countries are already gearing up for this expansion. But of course the government thinks we preach the gospel in terms of energy policy. Nice to see Rockefeller ditching their fossil fuel interest for RE. Go on, somebody from our government tell them “they’re dreaming” !!!!…………I dare you!

  4. Petra Liverani 4 years ago

    You couldn’t make it up.

  5. Rob G 4 years ago

    Abbott and his cohorts blindly march along on their fossil fuel crusade, ignoring over 70% of Australians that wish to become more reliant on renewables. And giving the rest of the world the finger. Their kind of arrogance deserves a good bashing in the next election. When that happens this Abbott nightmare will finally be at an end.

    • Jeremy Mauli 4 years ago

      Lucky for Australian Businesses there is a solution, Go Energy who is Australia’s Leading renewable energy provider is offering FREE of charge NO OBLIGATION agreements which protect your business from the federal govt. to abolish RETs , the agreement protects your intentions for future solar installations whether if its 5- 10 years from signing of the agreement, the abolishment of RETs could happen as early as tomorrow if you would like your business protected give me a call on 02 9492 2939 or send your business name ABN and your latest energy bill to [email protected] and I will see to it that your agreement to be protected is sent out, the sooner we have the completed documents back the quicker you can secure the protection your business needs. Thanks Guys…..

  6. Bernadine Morgan 4 years ago

    Hilarious…… I laughed till I almost cried – then I did.

  7. Peter 4 years ago

    The following comments were spot on “Australia has an abundance of energy resources and energy assets” but I would add – “especially in this sun bathed country, and that’s to mention the wind as South Australia continues to demonstrate”.

    And secondly “We can’t afford to become complacent – Australia must also be the
    world’s best in how we access and utilise our energy resources.”
    I would add – “this is exactly what the government is not doing and risking Australia falling far behind the leaders and then having to import the know-how when this is an area we can expertise in due to the above mention resources”.

  8. John Silvester 4 years ago

    Those resisting the expansion of coal seam gas can be expected to come under increased pressure. Those industry destroying greenies and misinformed landholders will be called out as the reason gas prices are rising sharply.
    The Queensland Government has changed some legislation to restrict, who can, and under what circumstance, objections can be made against large development projects.
    This should take a lot of pressure off coal seam gas developers.

    • Ronald Brakels 4 years ago

      People who resist the expansion of coal seam gas may be called out as the reason why gas prices are rising sharply, but only by liars. As I thought everyone knows, gas prices are rising due to the imminant completion of Liquid Natural Gas export facilities in Queensland which is causing domestic prices to rise towards international prices.

      • John Silvester 4 years ago

        Absolutely true, but it is no different than the continued assertions that renewable energy schemes are responsible for recent and continuing increases in electricity bills when network upgrades are by far the major contributor to rate increases.

        • Ronald Brakels 4 years ago

          And I really have to wonder just how a “misinformed landowner” manages to destroy industry. If they say, “Please don’t prospect for coal seam gas on my land,” they’re not really destroying anything, are they? And saying, “Please don’t” is technically all the power they have. If anything is destroying industry it must obviously be the crippling politeness that fossil fuel extraction companies are famous for.

          • John Silvester 4 years ago

            For a long time now greenies have been painted as anti industry. So for landholders to side with greenies they must clearly be misinformed.

  9. Jeremy Mauli 4 years ago

    Jeremy Mauli • 4 minutes ago
    Lucky for Australian Businesses there is a solution, Go Energy who is Australia’s Leading renewable energy provider is offering FREE of charge NO OBLIGATION agreements which protect your business from the federal govt. to abolish RETs , the agreement protects your intentions for future solar installations whether if its 5- 10 years from signing of the agreement, the abolishment of RETs could happen as early as tomorrow if you would like your business protected give me a call on 02 9492 2939 or send your business name ABN and your latest energy bill to [email protected] and I will see to it that your agreement to be protected is sent out, the sooner we have the completed documents back the quicker you can secure the protection your business needs. Thanks Guys

  10. Jeremy Mauli 4 years ago

    Lucky for Australian Businesses there is a solution, Go Energy who is Australia’s Leading renewable energy provider is offering FREE of charge NO OBLIGATION agreements which protect your business from the federal govt. to abolish RETs , the agreement protects your intentions for future solar installations whether if its 5- 10 years from signing of the agreement, the abolishment of RETs could happen as early as tomorrow if you would like your business protected give me a call on 02 9492 2939 or send your business name ABN and your latest energy bill to [email protected] and I will see to it that your agreement to be protected is sent out, the sooner we have the completed documents back the quicker you can secure the protection your business needs. Thanks Guys

  11. Ray Del Colle 4 years ago

    “Is it too hard to go to the moon, eradicate smallpox or end apartheid? Is it too hard to build a computer that fits in your pocket? No? Then it’s not too hard to build a clean energy future, either.” http://clmtr.lt/c/MKg0fz0cMJ

  12. Jeremy Mauli 4 years ago

    Hi there, my name is Jeremy
    from Go energy situated in Erina NSW, my job is to call Australian Businesses
    to make them aware of the Federal Government’s plan to abolish RETs, however as
    a Renewable Energy Provider we have a solution on ensuring that these
    businesses are protected. The protection we offer is free of charge and has no
    obligation it’s a simple DocuSign agreement that protects them to be entitled
    to the Government rebates if they wish to install a Solar System on their
    establishment in the near or distant future , if you could pass this on to
    members nationwide I have a team of 4 who are frequently sending out emails,
    making outbound calls to get these businesses protected, we would be more than
    happy if you could help us to get more Australians protected at the end of the
    day our main concern is the future of Australia’s environment.

    Lucky for
    Australian Businesses there is a solution, Go Energy who is Australia’s Leading
    renewable energy provider is offering FREE of charge NO OBLIGATION agreements
    which protect your business from the federal govt. to abolish RETs , the
    agreement protects your intentions for future solar installations whether if
    its 5- 10 years from signing of the agreement, the abolishment of RETs could
    happen as early as tomorrow if you would like your business protected give me a
    call on 02 9492 2939 or send your business name ABN and your latest energy bill
    to [email protected] and I
    will see to it that your agreement to be protected is sent out, the sooner we
    have the completed documents back the quicker you can secure the protection
    your business needs.

  13. Ken Fabian 4 years ago

    Just keep in mind that Abbott’s team has no genuine commitment to nuclear; they only bang on about it so those within his party and within Australian business who are concerned about climate are mollified – “we can fix emissions – we can just use nuclear” – and shift the blame for not doing so away from themselves – “greenies won’t let us use nuclear”. And at no time does this politicking ever require an actual commitment to nuclear.
    Of course the reality is that their climate science denial and climate action obstructionism is as incompatible with emissions reductions based on nuclear as it is with renewables but it is the MO of this government to be misleading and deceptive and maintain that they want to act on climate (Direct Action) when the truth is they don’t. What they are very clever at is contriving the politics so that it appears that dastardly others – greenies by preference – have stopped their “superior” climate policy in it’s tracks. As they will do and say when this worse than no climate policy climate policy is voted down by the Senate. They will bait the Senate into voting it down. Unfortunately it’s an MO that appears to work for them – aided and abetted by incompetent and/or partisan media.

    But renewables are already periodically and intermittently competitive with fossil fuels and are going to force them into intermittency, ready or not. Cutting feed in tariffs down to near zero hasn’t and won’t work to prevent uptake of PV or it’s feed of excess to the grid and actually undercuts the argument that it forces up electricity prices for other users. Time of use metering will force up evening power prices and that will only increase incentive for solar to include storage – which may explain why the impetus towards it from big energy has stalled. They are reduced to dirty tricks like denial of access to the network and energy market for renewables – allegedly for “grid instability” but in reality because renewables are too cheap. And/or restructuring electricity pricing away from metered usage to fixed charges to reduce incentives to install PV.

    The most critical fight is to ensure ongoing open access to the network and energy market for renewables and, ironically, allowing market forces to prevail.

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