Federal parliament will undertake yet another review of Australia’s energy system needs, while Australia’s climate and energy policies remain in a state of stasis.
Upon the request of federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy has instigated a new review of Australia’s current and future grid needs.
Chair of the Committee, the Queensland LNP’s Ted O’Brien, said that the enquiry will investigate the need for new generation and storage capacity within the energy system.
“As older power stations leave the market, we can’t rely on intermittent renewables alone to keep the lights on and the costs down,” said O’Brien.
“We need sufficient dispatchable generation capacity to balance renewables, so the electricity system is affordable, reliable and secure. Our new inquiry will tackle this generational challenge by assessing both sides of the equation – generation and storage.
“We’re at a turning point in how our electricity market operates and how we respond will be a major determinant of our strength as a nation well into the future. We have to get it right.”
According to the inquiry’s terms of reference, the committee will consider issues related to system integration, connection, and grid transmission requirements, review existing, new and emerging technologies and review the comparative efficiency, cost, timeliness of development and delivery, of various energy technologies.
But the comments by O’Brien, who has long been a pro-coal and pro-nuclear advocate within the federal Coalition, indicate the committee will likely be an exercise in re-hashing old arguments that fossil fuel generators need to be propped up, and that renewables cannot deliver an affordable and reliable energy system.
However, one wonders why yet another inquiry into Australia’s energy system is needed, given the ample array of work that has already been completed, including comprehensive analysis of the future energy system needs undertaken by key regulators like the Australian Energy Market Operator.
AEMO has delivered a blueprint for a future energy system in its integrated system plan, which has shown ambitious uptake of renewable energy sources and the ongoing phase out of coal-fired generation are consistent with delivering the lowest cost future energy system, that will also achieve dramatic reductions in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Deputy chair of the committee, Labor’s Josh Wilson, told RenewEconomy that he hopes the new inquiry can be used to further underline Australia’s potential as an emerging renewable energy superpower.
“This inquiry will be an opportunity to consider what Australia can and should do to ensure we achieve our potential as a renewable energy superpower, and of course that means expanding our capacity to store, share, and use clean energy,” Wilson said.
“Labor went to the last election with specific commitments to better support clean-energy storage and the application of clean energy in areas like EVs, where Australia does very poorly. I hope the inquiry will gather valuable information and, most of all, lead to substantial recommendations in terms of supportive government action, which is sadly lacking at present.”
Meanwhile, representatives of the Climate Change Authority confirmed to a senate estimates hearing earlier in the week that Angus Taylor has never asked the expert authority to provide a pathway to net zero emissions. It follows earlier revelations that Taylor has also never asked his department to prepare such modelling.
The latest enquiry is accepting submissions until May 7, and will likely hold hearings sometime thereafter.