Coalition Senators say that wind turbines are likely to cause greenhouse gas emissions to increase, and insist that the best thing that Australia can do to combat climate change is to export more thermal coal.
The extraordinary conclusions – from Senators Chris Back and Jonathon Duniam – were included in the dissenting report to the Senate inquiry into the resilience of electricity infrastructure in a warming world. They also insist that coal and gas would remain the dominant sources for electricity around the world for “many generations to come.”
“Energy generated by wind turbines do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the electricity sector by the amount claimed. In fact, there is some evidence that the addition of wind energy onto the grid actually increases carbon emissions,” the Coalition Senators wrote.
It was one of four dissenting views on the report prepared by the Greens chair Sarah Hanson-Young, highlighting the impossible nature of Australia’s energy politics, and the apparent refusal of any parties to agree on anything, including facts.
One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts issued a dissenting report which simply claimed that there was no such thing as a warming world, or at least one caused by man. Nick Xenophon insisted that gas should play a prominent role in the energy transition, and also quoted a debunked Murdoch media report that there was a “20 per cent limit” on wind energy; while Labor issued a dissenting report because they didn’t want to be seen agreeing with the Greens, even though they largely did.
The main thrust of the Greens report was for the managed exit of coal-fired generation and the need to meet strict climate targets.
It said coal had “no role to play in a secure energy future”, questioned the role of gas as a transitional source of energy, and argued that storage technologies – including off-river pumped hydro, thermal energy storage, and batteries – are able to overcome the problems of intermittent generation and allow the grid to be converted to 100 per cent clean renewable energy at minimum cost.
It supported expanding and extending the renewable energy target, a carbon trading scheme, expressed its support for a change to the 5-minute rule, an investigation into the relaxation of settings on fossil fuel generators, and for widespread reform of the AEMC, the rule-making body considered by most to be too slow moving.
Labor said it broadly agreed with the contents of the report, but not its conclusions. It did support an orderly exit of coal generation, no government money for new coal power, support for new technologies, and market reforms to encourage those new technologies. And it wanted an emissions intensity scheme.
The contents of the Coalition’s dissenting report, however, are quite extraordinary, and highlight the difficulties that prime minister Malcolm Turnbull would have if he ever chose to implement sensible energy policies, or sought to implement the inevitable conclusions of the Finkel Review.
In essence, the Coalition’s report was a collection of renewable energy myths that might have been collected from far-right anti-wind and climate denying websites:
“Energy generated by wind turbines do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the electricity sector by the amount claimed. In fact, there is some evidence that the addition of wind energy onto the grid actually increases carbon emissions.”
“It is a legislated requirement that 600 million renewable energy certificates (RECs) will be issued between now and 2031, adding a cost of at least $50 billion to power bills. This represents a significant wealth transfer to wind power companies from Australian power consumers and achieves no measurable benefit to the environment.”
This assumes that the 600 million RECs will all be traded at the current price of $80. They won’t, and it is ridiculous to suggest they would. There is every chance that with a surplus from 2020 as more wind and solar farms are built, they will have negligible value.
That the Coalition allows such palpable nonsense to be issued in its name is staggering. But the main source of their information seem to be from the notorious anti-wind campaigners and economic analysts Alan Moran and Brian Fisher, who the two Senators quote throughout their report.
And the fossil fuel lobby:
“With Australia emitting less than 1.5% of the world’s GHG’s, our greatest contribution globally may be to supply high energy, low polluting coal to the burgeoning economies of China and India as they transition their populations from subsistence living to middle class aspiration.”
But perhaps the greatest piece of idiocy and ignorance came in this following paragraph, relating to the proposed change of the 30 minute settlement period to a 5 minute settlement, to align with the dispatch period.
“Coalition Senators comment that the market price is currently averaged over 30 minutes. If generators were expected to jump on and off the grid every 5 minutes, the stability of the grid will be compromised. “
Are you kidding? That is pretty much what is happening now as the generators suddenly withdraw capacity to push prices within a short period and then flood the market with suddenly available capacity
“Many generators need more than half an hour to synchronise to the grid and have set forward contracts.”
Er, yes, and that would be why people are proposing 5-minute rules to encourage fast-reacting and even instantaneous responses from new technologies to take over from the dumb, slow moving machinery that currently dominates the grid. If you can’t respond in 5 minutes, don’t. And don’t expect to be paid for something you can’t do!
Indeed, the Coalition presumptions on coal and the whole energy debate appear to be based on the very same climate denial conclusions of Roberts. Even the highly conservative IEA concedes that solar will dominate the world’s electricity grid if climate targets are to be met.
The only circumstance where coal does remain dominant is if climate science is ignored – something that the Coalition has, for all intents and purposes, chosen to do in its first four years of government.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.