Crazy gang: Coalition MP wants Queensland to leave main grid

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Just when you thought Australia had hit the ceiling on absurd energy politics, federal Nationals MP Keith Pitt has unveiled a “bold” new plan for Queensland to quit the national grid.

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Just when you thought Australia had hit the ceiling on absurd energy politics, federal Nationals MP Keith Pitt has smashed right through it with a “bold” new plan for Queensland to quit the national grid.

The Queensland-based federal member for Hinkler – who is also a big fan of a new coal-fired generator, or even nuclear power for Australia – aired his latest energy thought bubble in an “exclusive” interview with Channel 9 on Tuesday.

According to Pitt, Queensland would be better off being disconnected from the National Electricity Market, because it could then keep all of its power to itself, and not have to share with any of those “silly” renewable states to its south.

This would not only make electricity cheaper for Queenslanders, Pitt argues, but would “stop blackouts at the border.” And he is said to be urging his Queensland LNP counterparts take this pitch to the next state election.

“If Queensland stands alone, that excess supply will drive down the wholesale price, which then drives down the retail price,” Pitt said.

“These are Queensland assets, paid for by the Queensland people, owned by the Queensland people, and we can’t continue to prop up states that make silly decisions. I think if there are blackouts which will occur around Christmas in some of our states, we want those blackouts to stop at the border.”

Energy may be a political football, but it turns out that the electricity grid is a little bit more complicated than a game of footy, which Pitt and his colleagues in LNP appear to think this game is about.

And don’t think they don’t have influence – they have forced the government to commission a nuclear inquiry, and have put a stop to any sensible policy that might have been promoted – the Coalition is now too scared to talk energy efficiency and electric vehicles thanks to this crew..

As the Channel Nine reporter dutifully pointed out, “not everyone agrees with Keith Pitt’s proposal.”

Indeed, Twitter – and Facebook – has been alight with not-everyone-agreeing since the Nine News report was aired. Most agree that Pitt is not just off the grid, but off the planet. Ironically, such a move would cost more money and would likely force one of the existing coal generators to close, because it would no longer have a market.

Nine News also reports that “one energy economist” has backed Pitt’s proposal, and then shows a clip of Frontier Economics’ Danny Price, saying that “if the states take control over their own policy, they can get better control over pricing for consumers.”

It’s not clear how this comment qualifies as an endorsement of the idea of Queensland quitting the NEM. But even if it does, it is worth noting – as Giles Parkinson explained here – Price’s modeling has repeatedly been called into question for failing to keep pace with technology developments and costs.

Meanwhile, we asked Melbourne University’s Climate Energy College-based energy analyst Dylan McConnell for his thoughts on Pitt’s idea.

“The phrase cutting off one’s nose to spite your face comes to mind. Or shooting yourself in the foot,” McConnell told RenewEconomy on Wednesday.

“It’ll just increase costs for Queensland (and rest of the NEM), while essentially reducing exports revenue for the state.”

Energy transition specialist Simon Holmes à Court agrees that Pitt’s theory holds no water, and says it would be about as constructive as blowing up Queensland’s roads in a bid to drive down the costs of bananas.

“In general, interconnectors reduce system cost and increase reliability,” Holmes à Court told RenewEconomy.

“Separating QLD would mean: decommissioning the terranora interconnector — a privately owned asset; changing the business case for all of the generators in the state — existing, under construction and planned (Queensland has phenomenal RE resources that wouldn’t be developed if the interconnector was severed.)

“If generation volume or price dropped, Queensland government revenue would drop.”

Whether Pitt actually believes, himself, that his his Quexit idea is really a good one is also up for debate, with some on Twitter suggesting this is just another act of energy policy vandalism by the ever resourceful conservative faction of the Coalition government.

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