Software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has had enough. The man whose Twitter exchange with Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk led to the hugely successful Tesla big battery installation in South Australia is going head to head with prime minister Scott Morrison again, calling him out over his new energy slogan “fair dinkum” power.
Cannon-Brookes late Wednesday launched a series of tweets challenging the Morrison government over its labelling of “baseload” and coal power as “fair dinkum” generation, and calling for a “movement” to embrace wind and solar. He wants to call that “fair dinkum power”.
“We need a movement. We need a brand for Australia’s future. We need a rallying cry for Australians who believe in (sun, wind and hydro). You said it perfectly: “Fair Dinkum Power.”
Cannon-Brookes’ rage was triggered by yet another Morrison video. And it was not the first time that Cannon-Brookes has vented his frustration with Morrison, tweeting just a few weeks ago about the PM’s “BS” views on wind and solar.
Morrison, it will be remembered, is the man who brought into parliament a lacquered lump of coal that was provided by the Minerals Council of Australia, the main coal lobby.
The Minerals Council’s long-serving deputy CEO John Kunkel is now Morrison’s chief of staff, while the MCA’s former CEO Brendan Pearson has the same role with trade minister Steve Chiobo, so it’s unlikely that the government is going to get internal advice to shift its attachment to fossil fuels.
Morrison tried to mock the Tesla big battery by comparing its utility to the Big Banana and the Big Prawn. And other ministers and MPs have followed.
In fact, the Tesla big battery at Hornsdale has stunned industry players and the market operator with its speed, accuracy, flexibility and reliability, and its ability to puncture the existing gas cartels. More battery storage is about to join the grid, including another Tesla battery, and people are starting to rethink the way the grid operates.
Morrison’s government, however, is locked in the last century. Its definition of “fair dinkum” power is based around the assumption that this can only be delivered by “base-load”, therefore coal – whereas even Australia’s big utilities are moving on, saying it is time to embrace wind and solar and dispatchable and flexible power.
Coal does not fit that description, and coal doesn’t cut it on emissions or economics.
The ABC Media Watch program this week highlighted how the term “fair dinkum” came to Morrison after conservative radio commentator Alan Jones, who – like energy minister Angus Taylor is a fervent critic of wind and solar – complained that people “out there” did not understand the word “dispatchable.”
Morrison tried real power, then fair dinkum power, then went on to use it in numerous media interviews over the next 24 hours – and hasn’t stopped using it since.
Ironically, Taylor – who has said there is already too much wind and solar on the grid – on Thursday enthusiastically unveiled a classroom in a Queensland school that is powered only by solar and storage, and will actually not connect to the state’s coal-dominated grid, because solar and storage is cheaper, and probably more reliable.
Apart from the echo chamber of the radio shock-jocks, the MCA, and the Murdoch media, the Morrison government is looking increasingly isolated on this issue, even among state Coalition governments.
The NSW government on Wednesday launched an “emerging energy” initiative that will help prepare for the exit of nearly all its coal fleet over the next 15 years. “This transition is happening, this helps prepare us,” state energy minister Don Harwin said.
In South Australia, the new Liberal government is not doing anything to stop the ongoing transition from 50 per cent wind and solar to near 100 per cent wind and solar by 2025. It just launched a $200 million to encourage more household solar and battery storage.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, both agencies that the Coalition tried to abolish, are now saying that the transition is accelerating. This is recognised by the major energy institutions, including the Australian Energy Market Operator,.
Business agrees. There are now 75 international companies operating in Australia that have vowed to source 100 per cent of their electricity from wind and solar. More are expected to follow, and households and small business are taking up solar at accelerating rates, and renewables are popular in the polls.
Even the main business lobbies have grown frustrated with the lack of any climate and energy policy, prompting them to move to formulate their own plans – although given the scare-mongering by the likes of the Business Council of Australia, it is unlikely to advance the conversation.
Cannon-Brookes says he wants to create a movement, and a new logo for “#fairdinkumpower”. He got plenty of suggestions but hadn’t got round to choosing the winner by the time we went to press. But he is also keen on countering the misinformation that is spread y about wind and solar.
And it fits in well with Victoria’s newest and largest solar facility, the Karadoc solar farm near Ouyen in the north-west of the state. That will provide a sizeable chunk of the solar that brewer CUB – the maker of iconic beers such as Foster’s and VB – will use to source 100 per cent of its electricity needs. Can’t get more fair dinkum than that.
And the Murdoch media’s response? It was to suggest Cannon-Brookes was not well placed to comment on the merits or otherwise of “fair dinkum” power because he was a billionaire who lived in a nice house. Curiously, that’s never stopped the Murdoch media’s billionaire publisher from airing his views, or his employees for doing it for him.
Disclosure: The domain name www.fairdinkumpower.com.au links automatically to RenewEconomy, as the enterprising and quick-thinking owner thought it was the best link while he goes about building his own site. We don’t mind at all.