A new Galaxy poll published by the Murdoch media claims that around half of Queenslanders blame renewable energy for their rising power bills – a disturbing finding that suggests Murdoch media readers actually believe the stuff they read in the Murdoch press.
“Queenslanders are blaming renewable energy for their surging power prices, forcing them to cut spending on holidays, dinners and clothes to cover the costs,” the Murdoch-owned Courier Mail announced on Saturday.
“Most Queenslanders have also backed a proposal for a new coal-fired power station in the north of the state to help drive economic opportunities and bring down prices.”
The story said the Galaxy poll found 47 per cent blamed renewables, while just 14 per cent thought they were keeping prices down. Some 28 per cent thought they were having no impact. One Nation supporters hated renewables most, with 62 per cent blaming them for price rises.
There was no information about whether any of the people thought that soaring network prices and the sharp jump in wholesale prices – mostly due to the bidding practices of the state-owned coal and gas generators – had anything to do with it.
That’s because they were not asked. Galaxy told RenewEconomy that the 902 people responding to the poll commissioned by the Courier-Mail were only asked if they thought renewables were at fault.
It proves only one of two things thing – that the campaign against renewables by the Murdoch media seems to work among its readership, or that the Murdoch media is trying to convince itself that it does.
Energy analyst Bruce Mountain estimates that the cost of large and small scale renewables for an average household in Queensland consuming 4.8MWh per year is about $67 per year. That’s out of a total bill of more than $1,713.
And blaming renewables is a little ironic because Queensland actually doesn’t have any large scale renewable energy to speak of.
Until a few months ago there was only an ageing 12MW wind farm in the far north of the state, although a 20MW solar farm was opened at Barcaldine, and late last month 15MW solar farm in the Sunshine Coast, a $50 million investment that will deliver savings of more than $22 million after all costs.
The Queensland Competition Authority has been giving the anti-renewables brigade a helping hand, deciding that the retailers should be allowed to charge consumers the maximum price for renewable energy certificates, bought for projects that the retailers hadn’t built.
Everyone knows that the reason the LGC trading price has hit the roof is because little wind and solar was built around the country for a few years while the politicians wrestled with Tony Abbott’s attempts to kill the industry completely – a goal he and many others in the Coalition has not given up on.
Wind and solar farms are now being built – there is a rush of them in Queensland, including this latest 1,000MW project, but the contracts being signed give little or no value to the LGCs.
This was a point made by the Canegrowers association which pointed out that QCA’s advisors, ACIL Allen, had effectively rewarded there retailers for doing nothing and were allowing them to recoup 50 per cent more than they should.
“The charges identified appear to be set for a marginal retailer that has no long-term offtake contracts in place and has not made an investment in renewable energy capacity,” Canegrowers wrote.
“The QCA approach to setting the LGC component of prices is likely to deliver Ergon a windfall trading gain in the purchase of its certificates.”
But even adding in the maximum amount they could possible imagine for the cost of wind and solar farms that they didn’t build – it still ended up as a negligible component of the whole bill.
And that includes the impact of rooftop solar. Queensland has more of this than any other state, over 1.72GW, but as the state generators have complained, this is pushing down prices from where they would be. And most households with solar are still getting such generous tariffs they are not paying a bill.
The big increases of course have been network costs – Hugh Grant has written extensively of the extraordinary profits made by networks in recent years, and David Leitch reinforces this point in our latest Energy Insider podcast – and in wholesale energy costs.
These – it has been clear to everyone, including the Queensland government – have been the result of the bidding patterns of the two dominance government owned generators.
The manipulation of the markets – perfectly legal it should be added, because that is what the electricity rules allow them to do – was put to a stop when the Labor government suddenly remembered they had an election early next year.
It instructed the generators to change their bidding patterns, a decision that means Queensland now has the lowest wholesale prices in the country, not the equal highest as it has in recent years. and the government further moved to limit retail price rises in their regulated environment.
The irony of the Galaxy survey is that the new wind and solar farms in regional Queensland – which the Murdoch media has campaigned so hard against – will help wholesale prices fall further. Indeed, it is the only option.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.