Malcolm Turnbull’s double back-flip on 100 per cent renewable energy

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Out of politics, and without a tie, Turnbull says 100% renewables achievable, dispatchable, and so cheap that new coal just won’t be built.

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Nearly four years after he gushed about electric cars and the thrilling prospects of a battery storage-driven energy revolution, Malcolm Turnbull has shaken off his political shackles and rejoined Team Renewables.

In his first major media appearance since being ousted as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, Turnbull answered audience questions on ABC TV’s Q&A program – including one on energy from tech billionaire and founder of the new Fair Dinkum Power brand and movement, Mike Cannon-Brookes:

“Our vision is that Australia can get to 100 per cent renewables and beyond, and that this transition… is not only good for the planet, it presents one of the greatest economic opportunities for our country,” Cannon Brookes said. “So my question to you is, what’s your advice to get politicians on board with our vision? And will you join us?”

Turnbull – after some prevarication – conceded that running Australia on 100 per cent renewable energy generation was “theoretically” achievable, with the right mix of generation, storage and supporting technology.

This is something he has acknowledge before, when speaking for instance at the launch of the BZE 100 per cent renewable energy plan when he was languishing on the Coalition back-bench.

As prime minister, of course, he seized on the blackout in South Australia to demonise renewables and has been dismissing the federal and state renewable targets from Labor as “reckless”.

But now he’s back on board with 100 per cent renewables, and it doesn’t seem quite so reckless.

“We all know where our energy future lies. It lies with renewable energy, backed up with storage, whether it is batteries or pumped hydro,” Turnbull said.

“The point Mike makes about our renewable endowment is absolutely right… “We are in a position, with this enormous solar endowment, where we will have a huge amount of energy opportunities.”

“It is the economics is driving (this). There is no question. If you wanted to build a new dispatchable power station, if you… wanted to deliver 1000MW of power continuously… I do not believe that you would build, today, a coal-fired power station.

“Regardless of issues about climate policy and carbon risk and all those things, putting those to one side, because the renewable generators are so cheap, as long as you’ve got the ability to back it up, you can deliver that dispatchable power.…”

This is no revelation to RenewEconomy readers, of course, but is interesting to hear coming from a man who for the past few years appeared to have traded in his keen understanding of clean energy technology and economics – and regard for climate science – for a shot at Conservative leadership.

That trade saw a man who, as Giles Parkinson wrote in March last year “knows a thing or two about energy policy and climate change” – and who has invested in solar and battery storage for his own home – emerge as prosecutor in chief in the push for new coal over wind and solar. It even saw him, as the Tweet below points out, undermine renewable energy in the name of partisan politics.

But pushed out of politics, Turnbull – in his own words – is back in business.

So will he join Cannon-Brookes & Co to drive the renewables transition from the other side?

“If Mike is inviting me to invest in a renewable energy project, then I would look at it on its merits,” he told Q&A host Tony Jones.

“I’m out of politics, and I will return to the business world, and I love nothing more than technology, I love new projects, I like new technology, and I love creating jobs. “I will now go back to creating jobs at the more hands-on level, in terms of business investment.”

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