If Angus Taylor is so blinded by ideology, he should step down as energy minister | RenewEconomy

If Angus Taylor is so blinded by ideology, he should step down as energy minister

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If the energy minister can’t overcome his ideological opposition to wind and solar, or his aversion to new smart technologies, he really should get out of the way.

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AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
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Australia’s energy minister Angus Taylor declined an invitation to the launch of the expanded Tesla big battery at Hornsdale this week. Which is a pity, because he might have learned something.

Taylor was invited because two agencies under the remit of the federal government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and the Clean Energy Finance Corp, contributed funding and debt finance to the $71 million project to boost the capacity of the Hornsdale Power Reserve by 50 per cent, and deliver new services that would hasten the transition to a net 100 per cent renewables grid.

Taylor, however, was firmly focused on the negatives.

“The Hornsdale Power Reserve expansion will improve response times on the worst days when demand is at its highest and the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” the minister’s statement said.

Technically correct at a pinch, but entirely missing the point of the announcement. And disappointing – but sadly predictable – that Taylor would feel so compelled on this occasion to fall back onto tired old Coalition and conservative lines.

The principal problem that this even bigger battery is designed to address is not what happens when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, it is designed to make things easier when they are, to such an extent that fossil fuel generators would not be needed at all.

Right now, when wind and solar deliver more than 100 per cent of South Australia’s electricity demand, which is increasingly often, the excess is usually exported to Victoria and the market operator is obliged to keep a certain amount of “synchronous” generation (i.e. gas plants) operating to ensure there is enough “inertia” in the grid.

The purpose of this new addition to the Tesla big battery at Hornsdale is to remove that need. Just this 50MW/64MWh addition of what Tesla calls its Virtual Machine Mode (VMM) – which mimics the inertial response of traditional synchronous generators – will be enough to provide half of the state’s inertia needs.

That will be a lot cheaper than operating gas plants, and probably cheaper and more efficient than the synchronous condensers that are also planned for the state.

As state minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said, the expansion of the big battery is expected to lead to significant savings by allowing South Australia to use even more renewable energy to lower prices in a secure fashion.

“The Marshall Liberal government is leading Australia’s transition to a reliable and affordable renewable energy system,” he said.

“This expansion will support our transition to net-100% renewables energy and show the world a better way to manage the transition to renewable energy.”

Talk of 100 per cent renewable energy, “net” or otherwise, is all too much for the federal Coalition, which is now acting as a kind of handbrake or deadweight on the transition.

Its complete lack of vision, and lack of respect for new technologies, means it is harder to get the planning and regulatory and rule changes needed to facilitate this transition – which everyone apart from this government, the Murdoch media and Sky News acknowledged is inevitable and desirable – and make it happen as quickly and cheaply as possible.

The Coalition continues to mock new technologies like a bunch of techno-troglodytes. Prime minister Scott Morrison likens the Tesla big battery to the Big Banana, resources minister Matt Canavan compares it to the Kardashians.

The CEFC’s chief executive Ian Learmonth added some much needed perspective: “The Hornsdale Power Reserve has already delivered substantial benefits to South Australia, providing grid reliability, reducing energy costs and integrating the state’s substantial renewable energy resources into the grid. It is an exciting model that can be extended across the grid to improve security.”

Taylor, though, does not want to recognise the benefits of non fossil-fuel technologies. It was Taylor’s office that fed much of the nonsense published in the Daily Telegraph about electric vehicles in the May election campaign, that was echoed in the absurd statements made by Morrison (“EV’s will kill the weekend”), and others.

Positive remarks about the big battery in the government statement were left to be uttered in the name of federal member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey.

Taylor is already under pressure from sections of the media over water rights, alleged grass land interventions, and his office’s appalling attempt to attack Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore using patently false data about travel expenses.

The energy industry is getting ever more frustrated by the Coalition’s lack of engagement, its lack of policies, its refusal to get on with planning for the future grid, and its attempts to boost the coal and gas industry through a range of interventions that now might include carbon capture and storage.

What this Tesla big battery announcement reminds us is that in Australia we have leadership from state governments, key institutions and the industry itself, while the federal Liberal National Party government is being dragged along behind, kicking and screaming all the way.

Taylor seems more intent on picking fights with Victoria and other states than embracing some overall policy.

The COAG energy ministers meet on Friday – for the first time in nearly a year – and it is going to be very interesting, particularly as it considers chief scientist Alan Finkel’s national hydrogen strategy, which will likely focus on huge arrays of wind and solar to underpin a revived manufacturing and processing industry, and energy exports.

But if Taylor can’t overcome his long standing antipathy and ideological opposition to wind and solar, and his aversion to new, smart technologies like batteries, demand management, virtual power plants and the like, then he really should get out of the way.

The only problem then would be what happens next. If even the most moderate member of this Coalition can produce such a package of lies and misinformation as Liberal MP Jason Falinski did on ABC’s QandA program last week, what hope is there? Maybe they should all go.

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19 Comments
  1. Jon 3 months ago

    There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    He cannot be that stupid unless someone else ties his shoes for him, he is obviously corrupt.

    • JackD 3 months ago

      Damn it, you borrowed my line for Angus. Dunno about being corrupt, but I do think he may be like the rest of his government, rather inept!!

      • Jon 3 months ago

        One couldn’t be that inept and find the door to their own bathroom.

  2. lin 3 months ago

    He should get out of the way but he won’t, because the reason he was put in that portfolio is that he is blinded by ideology.

  3. MrMauricio 3 months ago

    A parrot on the shoulder of coal!!

  4. Ren Stimpy 3 months ago

    Why is Dingus still a minister after admitting he distributed forged documents in an attempt to discredit a Sydney Mayor? Why is he not trying to get to the bottom of those forgeries to remove the assumption that it was him and his people? What does Lumpy know about it? He’s not much of a Prime Minister if he doesn’t know who in his ministry is forging what!

    • Bazz12 3 months ago

      Because he did not distribute “Forged” documents. See explanation above, incompatible
      word processors. The document was corrupted by a wp set to use commas instead of full stops.

  5. Michael 3 months ago

    The only thing I don’t agree with is the government, like with so many projects handing over money that will ultimately just lead to profits heading offshore. If it were an Australian based company the tax distance alone would mean a return over time. Keeping the profits in Australia would have also meant potentially further projects later.

    Don’t forget just recently they said how profitable the project was even with the small amount they can really profit from. They could well and truly afforded to have increased the size with their own funds considering the much increased profit potential.

    Of course people will be upset with this statement, but they aren’t looking at it realistically. Furthermore, there isn’t an endless supply of money without raising taxes or cutting services. Increasing federal debt isn’t sensible as the government has to pay interest on that (already wasting many billions a year). Funding like this just means less funding for other projects.

    That last point is key, other projects. If a company has money and there’s a profitable project to be built it’s likely it will go ahead. As I pointed out this was likely to happen regardless of federal funding at Hornsdale since it has been reportedly very profitable for them with a fairly quick return on investment. The government money would be better spent on slower return on investment projects where the funding actually builds a business case, preferably to a local company that keeps the profits in Australia which ultimately could potentially mean reinvestment in further Australian projects.

  6. Robin_Harrison 3 months ago

    Of course Taylor is blinded by ideology, that’s par for the course for all politicians in the left/right ideology based adversarial decision making system we have in the finest democracies money can buy. An incredibly rubbish way to make decisions which, as history shows, consistently makes incredibly rubbish decisions. Of course Taylor is owned, no politician on either side reaches a position of influence without being owned by someone.
    Not exactly government of the people, by the people, for the people.
    We’re being scammed.

  7. Bazz12 3 months ago

    Beware going out on limbs that may not support you. A lot of people are doing just that. If Taylor turns out to be right a lot of people will look silly. It is a field with a lot of uncertainty.

    Re the Sydney Council document. I seem to be the only one who knows what happened. That document went through two incompatible word processors. One was set for European standards and used comers instead of full stops for decimal points, It converted $1,435 to $1.43 and rounded out the decimal points. This is another example of people going out on limbs that won’t support them.
    Lots of people around the world having that problem.

    • Terry McGee 3 months ago

      “comers”? Ah, “commas”!

      Maybe your comment passed through two incompatible word processors? Seems there’s a lot of it going around at the moment….

  8. Ralph Buttigieg 3 months ago

    Ok. Which coalition parliamentarian would you have replace him?

    • Joe 3 months ago

      Craig Kelly, a like for like swappings over?

  9. Ian 3 months ago

    The COAG is on Friday. We look forward to the outcome of that meeting.

  10. Terry McGee 3 months ago

    Angus. Pure Bull.

  11. Seriously...? 3 months ago

    That’s a dangerous wish. If he goes you might end up with someone more effective in a negative way. Have you noticed how this government, for the last 6 years, has talked and talked and foamed and carried on, whilst enacting almost nothing in the way of concrete policy and action, in any sphere? And they can never get their asses into gear. If they wanted to build a coal plant they should have done it six years ago, but they’re simply not that enterprising. Their influence is almost entirely negative, they gum things up like dog poop in the gears. There are probably some amongst them who are capable of more, but so far they keep promoting the ineffectual culture warriors. Angus makes a lot of noise so he gets the ministry. Does he strike you as a sly but effective plotter? No. He’s a breast-beater and a shouter, nothing more.

    If I was the Minister for Stopping Renewables, I could think of vastly better ways to screw renewables over. But I’m not going to broadcast them here.

  12. remoteone 3 months ago

    It’s interesting that since the big banana comment from ScoMo, the government has not been able to generate any other form of attack on the battery concept. Morrison, being an ad man at heart (there’s an oxymoron) prides himself on being able anti anything but all we’re getting these days is the sound of crickets. The battery must really being doing good things, the government has tun out of their usual shit talking about it.

  13. Les Johnston 3 months ago

    It is helpful to keep the possibilities of battery technology open in the future (and present) when so much of society is calling for flexible and innovative approaches utilising developing technologies. While this is scary for some, ignoring the opportunities is not the answer. Minister Taylor has great trouble answering a simple question re his Clover Moore saga. So good to see an investment working for all Australians. Pity the Federal Government does not spend taxpayers funds doing likewise.

  14. Miles Harding 3 months ago

    Gentlemen of the LNP, it may be time for you to take your positions in Craig Kelly’s ditch.

Comments are closed.

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