Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has sought to highjack proposed government legislation, moving his own amendment to a bill in an attempt to open up the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to investments in new coal fired power stations.
Joyce moved his amendment late on Tuesday to a Morrison government bill that would formally establish the $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund, that has been debated by the lower house this week.
However, the blundered drafting of Joyce’s proposed amendment is highly unlikely to enable the CEFC to make investments in what the coal industry describes as “high-efficiency, low-emissions” (HELE) coal fired power stations, as the emissions intensity specified in the amendment would still rule out any coal plants.
The amendment proposes to allow the CEFC to invest in an electricity generation project that would “achieve an emissions intensity of less than 80 per cent of the existing generation system.”
According to the government’s own figures, the emissions intensity of the National Electricity Market currently sits at 0.79 tonnes of carbon emissions per megawatt-hour. This would set Joyce’s proposed threshold at 0.632 tonnes of carbon emissions per megawatt-hour.
An analysis undertaken by the International Energy Agency estimates that even the best ‘advanced ultra supercritical’ coal fired power station would still have an emissions intensity of between 0.67 and 0.74 tonnes of carbon emissions per megawatt-hour.
As a result, Joyce’s proposed amendment would still see coal-fired power stations ruled out from receiving investments from the CEFC, failing in its sole objective.
Speaking to the bill and his proposed amendment in parliament on Tuesday, Joyce repeatedly called for support for “high-intensity” low-emission coal-fired power stations, perhaps an inadvertent piece of honesty from the former Nationals leader, given even high-efficiency low-emission coal plants operate with an emissions intensity substantially higher than gas, and cheaper wind and solar.
“In the so-called transition by Japan, they’re not transitioning out of coal; they’re transitioning from old coal-fired power stations into high-intensity [sic] low-emission new coal-fired power stations as part of their plan in 30 years to transition,” Joyce said.
“We put all the opportunities that are before us and we represent that in the bills that we vote for. I will be moving an amendment for high-intensity [sic] low-emission coal-fired power,” Joyce added.
The rogue amendments are unlikely to be successful and unlikely to receive support from the wider Morrison government, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg telling reporters on Wednesday that he did not support Joyce’s amendments.
The debate on the government bill has brought out some of the fringe views within the Coalition, with Joyce’s contribution following that of backbencher Craig Kelly, who appeared to call for an end to exports of coal to China, to prevent the “transfer wealth out of this nation to the Communist Party of China.”
“We want to ship our own Australian coal off to China for the Chinese to use to create wealth and prosperity and jobs in that country. Yet we have so many members of parliament here who are prepared to sell our nation out, to sell our nation’s sovereignty out, and say, ‘We can’t use that same coal.’ It’s okay to ship it to China and let China use it, but we can’t use it here. That is a betrayal of our nation,” Kelly said.
Responding to the proposed amendments, the Clean Energy Council called on the Morrison government to keep the CEFC committed to making ‘clean’ investments.
“It’s time to get on with the job and focus on what’s important – targeted government funding to kick-start urgent investment in a future-ready network,” Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said.
“There is no such thing as clean coal and gas is not a low-emissions technology. The best way to manage the declining reliability of the ageing coal fleet and scheduled plant closures is through timely investment in transmission, renewable energy generation and storage.”
The Morrison government’s proposed changes to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s legislation would establish the $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund, but would also make a number of additional changes – including allowing the green bank to invest in gas projects, invest in unprofitable projects, and provide greater powers to federal energy minister Angus Taylor to direct its investments.
The additional changes are set to be proposed by Labor, the Greens and much of the federal crossbench.
Newly appointed opposition spokesperson for climate change and energy, Chris Bowen, said that it would oppose the attempt by the Morrison government to include gas within a definition of “low emissions technology”, saying that it was “simply not low emissions”.