Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has laid out his thoughts – and presumably those of his party – on renewable energy, electricity pricing and security, as well as on “clean coal” and gas, describing energy as a “defining debate of this parliament” in his National Press Club address on Wednesday.
The following is a selection of energy-related themes and quotes from Turnbull’s hour-long speech.
“If you doubt the importance of energy security, take a visit to South Australia. ….But the problem goes beyond South Australia.”
“Families and businesses need reliable power. This mindless rush on renewables is not good enough. Australia should be able to achieve the energy trifecta of energy security,
All governments and industry should work together to achieve those three goals …of secure and affordable power while delivering on our emissions pledge.”
“The renewable energy target was never intended to be perpetual. It was designed to act as a pull-through of technology, to provide accelerated demand on the assumption that that demand would inspire more investment and development. Now, whether it’s a coincidence or not, the reality is that the levelised cost of renewables has declined.
The opposition’s energy policies
“Bill Shorten’s energy plan… is a sure recipe to deliver much more expensive and much more unreliable power.”
“Labor’s approach is driven largely ideology.”
“This isn’t an abstract issue. Higher electricity prices mean more pressure on household budgets and businesses. That’s why energy will be a defining debate in this Parliament. We’re determined to help families and businesses by making electricity affordable and reliable; Labor’s policies mean higher power prices and energy insecurity,”
“We have an abundance of states setting huge renewable targets far beyond the national RET with no consideration (of the cost).”
“In Victoria, we have the Hazelwood. closure. Yet the Victorian government opposes onshore coal-seam gas mining.”
“State bans (on unconventional gas exploration) will make energy supply more expensive and less reliable. Without gas where will the firming power come from to provide stability for grids?”
(The lack of grid-scale energy storage capacity in Australia is an) “indictment of state governments that have been pushing more and more renewables into the grid … If you are going to have a large percentage of renewable energy in the grid, you’ve got to be able to back that up, with either battery storage or gas-fired power.”
Turnbull said Australia was lagging behind the rest of the world on battery storage, and energy storage technology more broadly. A situation for which he largely blames the states (see above).
“Large-scale energy storage will support variable renewables, and it will enhance grid stability and we’re going to get on with it.”
“Last week, at my request, ARENA and the CEFC agreed to work together on (advancing) battery storage and pumped hydro (research and development in Australia).”
Turnbull complained that while Australia had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in “clean coal” R&D, it had nothing to show for it, in terms of new, lower emitting coal-fired plants.
“You’d think if anyone had a vested interest in doing smart things with clean coal it would be us wouldn’t it? …We really need to strip the ideology out of the debate.”
“We will need more synchronous baseload power, (which can be supplied by) state of the art clean coal fired technology. The next incarnation of our energy policy should be technology agnostic.”
“There are new coal-fired power plants being all around the world and many of them use that advanced lower emissions technology.”
“Coal will have a roll to play for many decades into the future. At the same time the cost of renewables, solar in particular… and wind, are dropping considerably. But you do have this fundamental problem that the wind doesn’t blow all the time and sun doesn’t shine all the time.
“I came into politics at the ripe old age of 50, having spent my whole life run business. My interest is in results. I am not a political hack… The way I look at it, you’ve got to have an all of the above strategy. We want to achieve affordable energy, we want to achieve reliability, and we’ve got to meet our emissions reduction target.”