Coalition not ready to embrace high penetration renewable energy

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Federal government has asked CSIRO to develop a “technology neutral” roadmap for a “low emissions” future by the end of the year, but is still struggling with the idea of a high renewables-penetration grid.

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The federal Coalition government has commissioned the CSIRO to develop a “technology neutral” roadmap for a “low emissions” future by the end of the year, but indicated it is still struggling with the idea of a high renewables-penetration grid.

The roadmap was announced by energy minister Josh Frydenberg at the Energy 2016 network industry conference in Adelaide, who alluded to the perils of having high levels of “intermittent” renewable energy without significant hydro and nuclear back-up, or heavily integrated grids.

No thanks, we're Australian

Frydenberg has long been a supporter of nuclear power, and in his speech on Friday raised the issues of “intermittency” from renewable energy, in which South Australia is a world leader following the closure of the Northern coal-fired power station last week.

He noted Europe had significant nuclear resources, including France which relies on nuclear for 77 per cent of its electricity needs and Sweden, which relies on 41 per cent. (Although he did not mention that Sweden is phasing out nuclear altogether and France is reducing its share to 50 per cent as it faces massive maintenance costs).

He also said “edge of grid” countries such as the UK which was also “massively” subsidising nuclear power (although this new investment remains in doubt because of the soaring cost of the technology).

The point of Frydenberg’s comments appeared to be that Europe had more “reliable” power – both nuclear and major hydro resources – and more integrated grids. He again attacked Labor’s 50 per cent renewable energy target for 2030 because it would cost $48 billion and added infrastructure costs.

“In transitioning to a lower emissions energy system here, we have to acknowledge that there are three key characteristics that jurisdictions across Europe have which we do not,” he said in the speech.

“Our circumstances should not be used as an excuse for inaction. But nor can they be ignored. They need to be dealt with in a considered and methodical manner.”

At the same time, he conceded that Australia was undergoing rapid energy change. Coal-fired power stations were being retired (eight of the 12 dirtiest power stations had already closed), although the overall share of coal continues to increase, and rooftop solar will continue to surge.

Frydenberg’s cautious approach to renewables contrasted sharply with that of South Australia energy minister Tom Koutsantonis, who said that South Australia was “setting an example to the rest of nation” on how to transition the electricity supply to a low-carbon future.

He said South Australia had created a “unique market-leading position,” in the energy industry, and this had resulted in the exit of big coal-fired power station without a “payment for closure.”

Koutsantonis said all the players in the industry had to “act like adults” and understand that ultimately “we realise we have to deal” with carbon.

“We have to transform the economy from the old to the new, and some technologies, like renewable energy are the tip of the spear to that transition. “

However, the Australian Energy Council, which represents major suppliers like Origin Energy and AGL Energy, and other big coal and gas generators, maintained its not-so-subtle scare campaign over the situation in South Australia.

CEO Matthew Warren said that South Australia’s large uptake of renewable energy was “largely unplanned” and said there was a risk of “not having enough power” during times of peak demand, or to maintain adequate power quality “every second, every day.”

This assumed need to provide power “every second” has underpinned the massive overbuild in networks and coal-fired capacity in recent years. The Australian Energy market Operator has clearly stated the withdrawal of Northern poses no threat to energy security in South Australia.



One of the major themes of the Energy Networks Association conference has been that solutions must be technology neutral.

The CSIRO roadmap will be used to inform the Coalition’s Direct Action policy and the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, as well as low emissions vehicles and the Coalition’s emerging “cities” policies.

“The Coalition is committed to a technology-neutral approach to energy policy. This roadmap will further this commitment by supporting the development of innovative and low emissions technologies,” Frydenberg said.

“Not only will this initiative identify technologies that could create new and innovative products for consumers, it will also help identify opportunities for Australian businesses to be involved in the global energy supply chain, with the potential of creating new industries that create new jobs and growth in Australia.”

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18 Comments
  1. Island fisher 4 years ago

    So from Frydenberg all we can expect from the right wing nutters is more coal fired power stations. This LNP/IPA COALition must be removed on July 2nd or we will face huge and ever more expensive climate problems

    • solarguy 4 years ago

      Here, here! It’s the only way!

      • Dispassionate 4 years ago

        And yet an ETS is becoming a reality under the LNP……

        • solarguy 4 years ago

          Yes, so I hear. But is it bluff and bluster, their RE goal is pretty shit @ 20%

          • Dispassionate 3 years ago

            Still it would have to be considered a forward step. I’ll be voting LNP I think things will get better under Turnbull more so than another change of government. A bit of stability could be a very good thing.

          • solarguy 3 years ago

            Oh mate, Abbott conned the public with lies on RE in order to win government, result 88% less investment in RE, the RET reduced, high loss of jobs in the sector, solar businesses gone broke and all because of the LNP far right FF junkies. And their pulling the strings on Turnbull, otherwise he’s gone.
            How can you compare Labors 50% RE target, which has been given strong support from the Australian Solar Council and others, with only 20% from the LNP climate change deniers who hate RE and have tried to kill it and have mostly succeeded
            Turnbull now has lost credibility by becoming a puppet of the far right who have pissed tax payers money up the wall, by paying polluters to actually increase emissions. Direct action my arse!
            Stability I think not!

          • Dispassionate 3 years ago

            The cost of a 50% RE Target will be more than it should be. The governments job is not to pick winners or targets or be a player in any of the markets. It should be providing boring non sexy regulations that allow the market to provide the tech and innovation to move forward in the direction required. These regulations, such as an ETS is the process that is required, the results will happen if we get this part right. Again picking targets and then acting in markets really shouldn’t be the governments job.

          • solarguy 3 years ago

            It is policy that will get any target and if it is a 50,90 or 100% like the ACT, THE CORRECT POLICY will help facilitate that. The main LNP policy is Direct Action, but still have a target of 20% and will go no where near that.
            A Labor Government will have reverse auctions for big solar and wind to help get things going, just like the very successful ACT government has done.

          • Dispassionate 3 years ago

            But this is what I am saying, the government really shouldn’t be running these auctions, all they have to do is place in the regulations etc (eg a price for carbon) that then allow market based solutions to whatever the result needed. These will be lower cost for the same or better results without picking winners.

  2. DevMac 4 years ago

    “Technology neutral” sounds similar to Malcolm Turnbull (as Communications Minister) saying that the LNP version of the NBN was going to be “technology agnostic”.

    It turned out that meant “the cheapest”, and as well all know, “the cheapest” is very rarely the best long-term solution.

    “Technology neutral” is code for “what we want to subsidise”, which I’m sure will not necessarily be the best long-term solution.

    • Ian 4 years ago

      Good work for trying to decipher the LNP’s Newspeak. I am sure the Spanish Inquisition had amazing new and innovative products at their disposal. ‘Australian Businesses’ means international businesses harvesting Australian resources. ‘Global energy supply chain’ means exporting Australian oil, gas and coal. ‘ creating new industries’ means opening new coal mines and gas fields. ‘ create new jobs and growth in Australia’ means allow the foreign owned companies to import their own workers and swell the expatriate population of Australia.

      Of course CSIRO research means find ways to justify a particular political position.

    • Dispassionate 3 years ago

      “It turned out that meant “the cheapest”, and as well all know, “the cheapest” is very rarely the best long-term solution”
      Depends on what we are talking about, the cheapest emission reductions is a very good thing! Otherwise we are wasting resources that could be better used elsewhere and society as a whole suffers.

  3. Megs 4 years ago

    If they just put a proper workable price on carbon emission, as recommended by Dr James Hansen, by 350.org and the Citizens Climate Lobby then the market they love so much would sort it out without politicians subsidising donors ,supporting mates or trying to pick winners. The pricing method is “fee and dividend”. A flat fee per tonne, rising by a set amount over 10 years, with all the distributed evenly to all citizens …. “here is your equal share of the carbon fees collected, so you can compensate for any price rises, or bank the money and use less fossil energy. “.
    CCL have been working on it for years in the USA, including how to manage “cross border” adjustments. http://Www.citizensclimatelobby.org
    (or dot something).
    So, the leading planetary atmospherics scientist at NASA works out the problem, shows the Bush Cheney Whitehouse and gets muzzled. Gives up and goes back to research, has grandkids, thinks I must try again, huge efforts, others join in and after years of activism and debate the best thought leaders emerge in the worlds largest economy and start making clear progress. And here in good old Oz, we bumble on as if we had to invent the wheel.

    • David Hall 4 years ago

      Why go through all that bureaucracy. Why not have some direct action and not issue generating licences to the the highest polluters?? These are old power stations and by now should have little book value.

      • Megs 4 years ago

        Understand and fully appreciate the sentiment David, and I assume your question is rhetorical. But of course for a Government to pick power stations is “picking winners” and subject to endless argument ( and beaurocracy) . And in any case the hardest part is measuring every polluter’s carbon emissions beyond argument, which has to be done anyway. The advantage of Carbon Fee and Dividend is it levels the playing field between carbon polluters and non polluters, but in a way that cannot be politically manipulated. It is “revenue neutral” for Government. It is easier to administer even than a super fund ( which can be done for 0.2%) , and it is the most easily acceptable to free market conservatives (like USA Republicans ) because the money does not go into Government ( because it is a fee and goes into a single purpose trust to be fully distributed to citizens ) and the market drives the solutions. This is why CCL is starting to win over Republican congress persons and develop bi-partisan support in the USA and why a branch of CCL is now growing fast in Australia and having calm thoughtful conversations with parliamentarians, electorate by electorate.

  4. Radbug 4 years ago

    That’s nice. I’ll make his mind up for him. I’ll put eight PV panels on my roof and buy a 10 kWh Redflow battery, plus an airconditioner to mop up excess storage in summer, and then go off grid. Bye, bye, Josh!

  5. Geoff 4 years ago

    the coalition nor labor will never get renewables off the ground to the extent that is needed. it will be the overall cost and appetite of the customer that will drive the revolution. come July 2 I do hope that the LNP get crushed not because of this, but to show how much of a dip shit Turnbull has been. to see him turn out worse than Abbott and watch his party fall would be a beautiful sight indeed.

  6. KenFabos 4 years ago

    The LNP has no policy to fix the climate problem – not with nuclear, not with renewables. Nuclear in the mouths of climate science deniers and obstructors of action like Frydenberg is no more than commitment free rhetoric.

    Obstruction of climate action in defence of fossil fuels is an every day and every way priority for the LNP. Nuclear is a thought bubble. Fixing the climate problem with nuclear is incompatible with that obstructionist priority and would require persistent, consistent commitment to both nuclear and to fixing the climate problem and they are doing neither. They can’t even bring themselves to confirm climate even is a serious problem!

    The true function of any LNP nuclear policy will be to ‘justify’ cutting support for renewables. When they fail to follow through with nuclear – as they will because they don’t really want it and the power companies don’t want it, they want coal and gas – they can and will blame ‘green politics’. A surprising number of Australians will believe them.

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