It is difficult to see any common sense in the Federal Government’s decision today to walk away from Clean Energy Target recommendations in favour of a new energy policy.
Full details of Turnbull’s new plan need careful consideration over the coming days, but from the outset it is clear that alongside scrapping the CET, (which would have mandated a certain percentage of power be generated from gas and renewable energy and, as a result stimulated the renewable industry), the new policy will continue to rely heavily on gas and coal.
And for those of us passionate about renewable energy, this is a blow. What’s more, the reasoning makes no sense. When Australia had a carbon credits scheme in place, the price of energy was less than half of the cost it is now – without any carbon scheme.
So, to suggest that a scheme, such as the CET, that encourages non-carbon producing technologies, and to purport that such a scheme will increase energy prices as the Government has done, is simply not supported by the reality we’ve experienced recently.
A ‘win for consumers’?
With the announcement today, the Government declared “a win for consumers and savings of about $115 on energy bills”.
We are all in favour of more affordable energy. Consumers should – and must – be able to pay their energy bills. But right now, Enova is developing a renewable product, utilising solar and battery technology, and our preliminary modelling shows it will deliver consumers annual savings of $460.
It is incomprehensible that the Government keeps side-lining renewables.
It keeps citing the South Australian blackouts as its primary reason for wanting to deliver ‘energy guarantees’ for all Australians; yet (as AEMO has reported), the outage was caused by a conflagration of events, including the collapse of 20+ transmission towers, that culminated in a protection malfunction on the wind farms causing the cascading collapse of the system.
This would have occurred even if the protection fault was on an operating gas or coal fired plant.
To blame renewables is nonsensical. To make policy based on it, is even more ludicrous because, in doing so, the Government is putting the brakes on renewable investment and –irritatingly – continuing the kind of backward thinking that hinders progressive, long-term energy policy.
Favouring the big players
In an effort to address the issue of ‘reliability’ as the Government sees it, the new policy also outlines a ‘reliability guarantee’ in the form of a contract that all retailers will buy into.
My concern at this point is that this simply favours the large, incumbent players, and it has the potential to impact smaller retailers, especially if contracts don’t have scalable, capped pricing. And frankly, right now, the smaller retailers are leading the way on innovation around the transition to renewables.
Furthermore this ‘new’ policy only perpetuates the idea that 19th century technologies will fix a 21st century problem. They won’t. And while the government continues to ignore this very simple fact, Australia continues to be at a disadvantage – while the rest of the world is embracing renewables.
Malcolm Turnbull says Australia’s commitment to the Paris Climate agreement remains unchanged, although it’s also a stretch to see how this can be achieved while as a nation, we will continue to rely so heavily on coal and gas. Some officials have suggested they will put off dealing with our agreed targets until closer to the 2030 deadline, which again, only further demonstrates how short-sighted the Government is in making sensible energy policy.
The working families of Australia are relying on our politicians to show the way to a sustainable future, and this announcement does nothing more than reinforce an outdated paradigm.
But while Federal government policy lacks any real long-term planning around renewables, small communities across the country will continue to forge ahead with the transition to renewable energy, regardless.
Community-owned renewable energy will forge on
As an example, here in the Northern Rivers, the mayor of Byron has decreed that the Shire will be 100% Carbon neutral for energy with 100% community ownership of the renewables by Sept 2019: It is a visionary statement, but one which has every possibility of turning into a reality, because it is clear and defined, and has extensive buy-in at a grass roots level.
In many places around Australia similar local initiatives are beginning to take shape. Make no mistake: community-owned renewable energy will power the future.
The community wants real change. And they want it now.
Tony Pfeiffer is CEO of Enova Energy, a community based retailer operating in regional NSW, and looking to offer services in metropolitan areas.