One of Australia’s largest operators of coal-fired power plants has weighed into the national energy debate, calling for a non-partisan push to clean energy and reminding policy makers that the shift to renewables is “a reality” that must be addressed.
In a full page advertisement published in major national newspapers on Tuesday, Energy Australia managing director Catherine Tanna (pictured below) said the way the country generated energy “had to change”, and that her company – owner of the Yallourn coal power plant, among others – was prepared to do its bit to make this happen.
“We believe all Australians should have reliable, affordable energy,” Tanna said in the letter, mirroring one of Malcolm Turnbull’s favourite energy sound-bites. “However, the way we generate, deliver and use energy has to change and I’m determined EnergyAustralia will live up to its responsibility.”
— Wendy Farmer @VotV (@WendyFarmer_) February 12, 2017
Tanna, who also spoke to ABC Radio on Tuesday morning, warned that as cheaper forms of energy – namely coal plants – retired, investment in newer and much cleaner generation technologies, like renewables, was crucial.
“As at today, newer forms of energy are more expensive than some of the older forms of energy, but over the next 20 years those older, cheaper forms of energy are going to retire.
“That’s a reality and that’s why we need a plan to transition into those newer forms of energy,” Tanna told the ABC.
“Let’s understand what the problem is, get the facts on the table and then altogether we have to work on solutions,” she said. “We need urgently a national plan to transition to a lower-emission economy.”
Tanna, whose company last year committed $1.5 billion to renewables development, including plans for a solar power station in Victoria and a wind farm in South Australia, was also keen to emphasise the importance of policy stability in driving investment in renewable energy generation.
“The single-biggest barrier to investment is uncertainty around policy settings,” she said.
“So when there is a lot of rhetoric about policy settings changing, no matter who it comes from, or a lot of flip-flopping about the fiscal assumptions it makes it very, very difficult for anyone to make a commitment to new projects.”
Tanna’s written plea and comments come as political debate on energy plumbs new lows; including the brandishing, in Parliament, of a lump of coal by federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, and threats of scrapping renewable energy targets and other policies from various state opposition parties.
It also comes as late summer heatwaves – that scientists tell us are becoming more intense, and more frequent, due to global warming – cause blackouts and bushfires around Australia.