South Australia triggers Turnbull backflip on renewables | RenewEconomy

South Australia triggers Turnbull backflip on renewables

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Bloomberg New Energy Finance says Turnbull intervention into energy debate is a “worrying sign” and suggests Coalition could be using South Australia to weaken confidence in renewable energy investment.

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One of the world’s leading energy analysts has raised concerns that the Australian federal government’s focus on “energy security” could simply be used as an excuse to go slow on renewable energy and hold back efforts on climate targets.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in a detailed note issued after the CoAG energy ministers meeting on Friday, says it is unclear whether a new focus on energy security will result in “innovation of policy or better integrate renewables, or measures to retard renewables.”

It notes that the South Australia blackout has sparked a blame game from politicians and media outlets against renewables, even though the failure of two fossil fuelled facilities to restart the system had received little scrutiny.

“The outage has changed the political discourse about energy in Australia,” it says.

In particular, it signals a change in the approach of prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, a previous supporter of renewable energy who has led the attack on state-based renewable energy targets. It describes this as a “worrying sign” and reverses a move towards a more a more rational discussion.

“It is the first time the prime minister has ventured into energy policy since taking leadership, and the negative posture (from a previous enthusiast for renewables) could signal the re-politicisation and polarisation of energy policy,” the BNEF analysis says.

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It says that by arguing that state-based targets may weaken energy security, the federal government may weaken the very mechanisms which have actually delivered investment in renewable energy since the election of the Abbott government in 2013.

“These programs have been the most significant (and in many cases lone) driver of investment in large-scale renewable since the floundering of federal policy under the Abbott government,” the analysis says.

“They are the only policies to drive investment beyond 2020”.  By attacking those targets, the federal Coalition may weaken state-based bipartisan support, and further damage confidence.

The Coalition has continued its attacks on the state-based schemes, including on Monday when federal energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg repeated his claims – in an opinion piece in The Australian – that the Victorian and Queensland state-based targets would impose $41 billion of capital costs on consumers.

Again, RenewEconomy asked Frydenberg’s office to see the numbers behind this claim, but was again told that it was not possible and that the estimates came from the environment and energy department.

BNEF puts the estimate capital cost for Victoria at one-third less ($8-$10 billion) than the cost cited by the minister ($14 billion). It has not yet costed Queensland because the state is yet to reveal details of its plans, although those are due this week.

BNEF says the South Australia blackout did highlight the need for management of the electricity system to evolve, and new infrastructure and technologies in the same way that the arrival of the motor car required paved roads, traffic lights and highways.

“The higher penetration of renewables undoubtedly makes system management more complex. However, opposing or limiting the uptake of renewables, is, in our view a retrograde response, which ignores the imperative to decarbonise.”

And, it adds: “Currently, the phrase (energy security) is mainly being used to argue for a slowdown in the deployment of renewables, and the continuation of Australia’s dependence on coal and gas-fired generation.”

In its report, BNEF argues that the focus of energy security should be on distributed energy and innovation in grid management, echoing the comments of AGL Energy and others, and the reaction in the US following Hurricane Sandy and in Japan following the great east earthquake.

It notes that the CoAG decision to appoint chief scientist Alan Finkel to head a review of the National Electricity Market, and to create a blueprint for reform, does not mention renewables, nor does it mention climate change.

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However, it did question some of the decisions made by the Australian Energy Market Operator in the lead-up to the blackout, noting that it made no requirement for local frequency control and ancillary services because it had assessed there was no credible risk of separation.

“This assessment clearly turned out to be incorrect, with severe ramifications.” And it described that assessment as “peculiar” given the state’s “fragile grid” and its weak interconnection (which only amounts to 30 per cent of peak load, compared to 83 per cent for Denmark).

It says the outage and the response is likely to “put a rocket” under plans to build a new inter-connector  between South Australia and NSW, although others question if this would have made any difference given that any such new link would still have had to use the transmission lines blown over in the storm.

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  1. Rob G 4 years ago

    It was a disgraceful display of ignorance in today’s question time. Both Frydenberg and Turnbull attacked the Labor renewable targets – calling them “an ideology”. Maybe somebody needs to remind both of these coal puppets that California (the 4th biggest economy in the world) has a 50% target by 2030. That they are governed by conservatives who can see the sense in transforming their energy. When they ridicule Shorten for having a 50% target by 2030 they ridicule many other countries and districts that have similar ambitions. It might help them, if they reflect on their own comments and think more clearly that it’s this very posturing that is hampering Australia’s policy direction on all things climate change (energy being a big part of that).

    I feel as angry as De Niro does about Trump!

    • john 4 years ago

      Rob as you know the statements are targeted at the followers, who they know do not have the skills to find out, so they are on safe ground.
      Disingenuous granted.
      Will it work?

    • Carl Raymond S 4 years ago

      Combusting long buried carbon to release CO2, H2O and energy is an ideology; a very short sighted ideology.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      Recent modelling by Sustainable Energy Now shows WA could go to 50% in fire years retiring all coal except Blue Water and replacing it with wind and solar. Extra transmission lines not an issue. Not more costly than BAU even on conservative cost assumptions and using Reverse Auctions could well be cheaper as the ACT has recently shown, with wind project developers inclined to bid low in a buyers market and PV constantly shaving costs.

      85%, 90% and 100% scenarios also show reasonable LCOE costs and given increases EE over the journey consumer bills would not go up. The PV and storage learnings curve assumptions are particularly conservative (read market analysis experts like Prof Ray Wills expect them to much steeper than those used).

  2. trackdaze 4 years ago

    Catch phrases keep backfiring on the coalition.

    First we had “Energy poverty” and “coal is good for humanity” in developing economies which they appear to have met with increasing use of renewables.

    Now we have “energy security” that has come about from the network falling over literally. Energy storage especially behind the meter solves this better than most.

    • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

      And in regard to energy security they could potentially start by ensuring transmission towers are adequately secured to the ground during a reasonable wind. I suspect they are going to find engineering solutions involve much more than generator output and frequency control.

  3. Ken Dyer 4 years ago

    In South Carolina after the hurricane hit and thousands were without power, the responsible politicians rushed to assure people that everything that could be done was being done to restore power and services. Contrast this with the politicised opportunism of Turnbull and Fryedburg. Not one word of sympathy or compassion. Not One. And did we hear anything when Victoria was hit with over 100,00 homes without power? No not one word from the Federal Government. Not one. They are a disgrace and an abomination to our great country. Roll on the next election!

    • Neo Lib Yes 4 years ago

      You just had one buddy and your lot did not win!

      • Ken Dyer 4 years ago

        Meaning precisely what? Victoria still has thousands of homes without power. If you cannot say something meaningful that adds to the discussion, it is best not to say anything at all.

        • Neo Lib Yes 4 years ago

          Well Ken, speaking of meaningless, your statement roll on the next election is entirely empty, so just sit around for another 3 years and wait for another go! Also if you read Frydenbergs initial media release on 28 September, yes he assures that everything is being done to restore power as quickly as possible. So your confected outrage is entirely false.

          • Ken Dyer 4 years ago

            Is it? It may be the only way that this country might get a sensible and useful response because your mob has abrogated the responsibility to any faint hope that their might be a coherent and useful policy supporting renewable energy in this country.

            As it stands, it is the State Labor Governments that are driving the renewable energy agenda, whilst your mob dither, procrastinate and play stupid idealogical political games.

            I remind you that renewable energy was not to blame in the recent power outages in SA, yet the Libs implied it was.

            It was only after they were rightly howled down by those who actually knew what they were talking about that they were forced to change their position. I didn’t hear them blaming the brown coal burners when Victoria’s power outages occurred, outages that are still going on as I write.

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            The community outrage with Turnbull, Frydenberg and Hunts political opportunism on behalf of their fossil sponsors is anything but confected.

            Confected better describes what were puerile statements emanating from their public comments within just hours of the catastrophic storm.

            Fortunately this brain fade from the Coalition has only backfired on them with >68% of South Australian thinking RE had anything to do with causing their power outages.

            Not a good look for the innovation bloke joined Scott Ludlam, Bob Carr and Clover Moore who launched the BZE ZCA SEP in 2010.

  4. bedlam bay 4 years ago

    TurnBull’s and FRYberg’s hypocrisy and chicanery writ large. The energy security is hot air and fear just as terrible as Reds under the beds and Abbott’s flags and secuirty and Howard’s fridge magnets.

  5. Stewart Rogers 4 years ago

    They better not close down Hazelwood next year. Energy futures have already skyrocketed.

  6. Mike Dill 4 years ago

    While the politicians talk about putting in another inter-connector, putting in storage is the path to the future.

  7. Robin_Harrison 4 years ago

    ‘Business as usual’ is getting almost incoherent in its attacks on renewables energy and its equally disruptive stablemate, electric transport. It’s no wonder they’re getting frantic. The writing is on the wall for them with exponentially growing disruptive technologies spelling the end of the fossil fuel era.
    Already coal has no future. Logic dictates gas, oil and nuclear will follow and the properties of exponential growth dictate that won’t be long.
    Enjoy the ride.

  8. Richard 4 years ago

    I don’t support Turncoat et al and their clear agenda to slow down renewables. But I wish proponents of renewables would start talking the truth about what needs to be done and face up to the reality. We have to accept that prices will rise to cover the extra cost of generating electricity form renewables or that is subsidized by the tax payer. I don’t have a problem with that because it is the only way to tackle a bigger problem which is GW.
    Instead of pretending that 24/7 renewable energy will be cheaper than coal fired generation(it never will be because of the costs of storage) it would be better to just accept higher prices as a necessity to do something about climate change.And argue the case around that and putting a tax on emissions to level the playing field.
    There should be a lot more focus on the cost of business as usual and less on the ficition that renewable will ever be cheaper than coal.

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