Federal resources minister Keith Pitt has labelled a prediction from Australia’s key energy market operator that a 100 per cent renewable grid will become an increasingly common occurrence as “absolute nonsense”.
Responding to the speech by new CEO Daniel Westerman, where he said the grid would need to be ready to operate on 100 per cent renewables as early as 2025, Pitt said the only way that supplies of renewable electricity could be firmed was through the use of fossil fuels.
“Intermittent wind and solar, as we all know, is not reliable,” Pitt told ABC Radio. “It needs to be backed up, that’s backed up by gas and other means.”
It’s yet another example of the Morrison government distinguishing itself from the views of those with genuine expertise in the energy system and the pace of change already underway in a transition to cleaner energy sources.
Pitt’s comments are at odds with most of the energy market’s key regulators, including AEMO, which is observing an energy transition to renewables occurring at a pace that is significantly faster than even the most bullish scenarios modelled in its Integrated System Plan just one year ago.
“A combination of technical innovation, economics, government policies and consumer choice, is driving this energy transition faster than it ever has before,” Westerman told a CEDA event in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Westerman also pleaded for all parties, including governments, regulators, rule makers and market players, to work together to ensure that the transition to renewables can take place.
His comments came as the Australian Energy Market Commission flagged a range of energy market reforms designed to ease the path for energy storage technologies to play a bigger role in the energy system – including specifically as a key tool in helping to firm supplies of wind and solar.
Pitt’s comments underline the basic problem, namely that the federal Coalition is not ready to accept that the new technologies underlying the transition even exist. His train crash of an interview on Sky News, where he refused to admit that battery storage was dispatchable, was a case in point.