Why Turnbull will “never” back renewables

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Smart Energy Council CEO says PM Turnbull will never support a policy that boosts renewables, tackles climate, or rolls back the predominance of coal. Here’s why.

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AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

A federal government led by Malcolm Turnbull will “never” back policies that accelerate the shift to renewables, effectively tackle climate change, or help to phase out coal plants.

John Grimes, the CEO of Australia’s Smart Energy Council, said on Tuesday that the federal Coalition had been effectively hijacked by the far-right faction – the same group of ultra-conservative MPs which last week formalised their push for new coal power by forming the “Monash Forum.”

As we reported last week, the manifesto of that bizarre group – led by Craig Kelly and Tony Abbott, and featuring more than half of the LNP back bench according to some claims – can be summed up as “coal subsidies good, renewable subsidies or targets bad.”

And despite “getting the economics of coal and renewable energy entirely wrong, and completely misunderstanding how the electricity market operates,” said Grimes, it has managed to gather both media attention and leadership support.

As Giles Parkinson put it last week, “they have demanded Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull jump to their demands, and he has asked how high.”

Why? According to Grimes, because he is bound to.

“We know, since the last federal election, the Turnbull government will never support a policy that significantly increases renewable energy, tackles climate change, or rolls back the predominance of coal,” he told the told the Smart Energy Conference in Sydney Tuesday.

“Why? …Because the secret Coalition agreement between the National and Liberal parties which, guarantees Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, strictly forbids it.

“And the reason this agreement is secret is because if the people of Australia knew that was the agenda at the heart of this government, they would reject it comprehensively.”

That’s because “in the real world,” says Grimes, Australian households and businesses continue to flock to renewable energy technologies like solar and battery storage – as evidenced by the current residential and corporate rooftop PV boom.

And it’s also driving the nascent battery storage boom, which Grimes predicts will extend to 450,000 homes, adding a total of 3.5GWh behind the meter battery storage capacity out to 2020.

“There is overwhelming public support on all sides of politics to move to the energy source of the future: renewable energy. It has enormous public support,” he said.

Add to that the ambitious renewable energy targets of most of Australia’s state and territory governments, among which 40 per cent by 2025 sits at the lower end of the scale, and what do you get?

“That all means that we are living … in a parallel universe. The parallel universe between the policies of the existing federal government and the real world of Australia; families, self-funded retirees, … the market and the public.

Opposition spokesperson, NSW Labor senator Kristina Keneally also touched on this mysterious disconnect in her address to the conference.

“It is significant that this group of people here today have ignored the negative headlines, the troglodytes in the Coalition government, and they’ve come together for Australia’s biggest solar, storage and smart energy gathering for the year,” she said.

“For reasons known only to themselves, the Turnbull government has repeatedly said that it would like to extend the life of old coal-powered stations and build new ones at taxpayers’ expense.

“We know that building new coal-fired coal power stations is going to be more expensive than building renewable energy storage that will back up … wind and solar power.

“And we know that extending coal-fired power stations only delays the transition, when what we need to be doing is ensuring the transition is smooth and that no one gets left behind,” Keneally said.

“What you might not notice if you pay attention to our politics, (is that) the argument is now over on the ground and in the boardrooms of Australia.

“We’ve only got one future energy system, and that system is driven by renewables and all the technologies and opportunities that renewables bring.

“Now we must listen when business says there is no appetite – and we are talking zero appetite – for building new coal-fired power stations,” she said.

“We must listen, if there is no appetite in our electricity companies for keeping ageing coal-fired power stations running and delaying the inevitable transition that you are all part of.

“And we must always remember, as we hear calls to nationalise the Liddell power station, that it was the NSW Liberal governmetn in 2014 that sold Liddell to AGL for zero dollars. And they were jollied along in that sale… by Abbott and Turnbull governments and their asset recycling program.”

Later in the day, Green Energy Markets analysts Tristan Edis also took a swipe at Turnbull, noting that he would need to stand up to his party’s pro-coal right faction if Australia was to meet its Paris climate obligations.

“What about the NEG? The answer to that, quite simply, is that Malcolm Turnbull needs to grow a spine on this particular issue, if it’s going to be meaningful,” he told the conference.

“It could be that the policy can work, if it’s designed the right way, but it must have a much more strengthened, more aggressive emissions reduction target to drive any kind of meaningful investment targets.

“The reality is, they don’t have a plan to deliver on even their relatively weak 2030 emissions reduction target.

“The current NEG is not sufficient to deliver on that, and they have to up that target. And that’s where I would see the opportunity,” Edis said.

“There’s no way around it, coal has to go … to meet these targets, and that leaves a big gap for others to fill.”

Sophie Vorrath

Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.

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79 Comments
  1. RobertO 8 months ago

    Hi All, I do not trust 2 toungs or mosh fiddleberg and 2 toungs may do a 180 turn as part of the election lead up and dump the Jaaack group (coal ash group) and claim I was forced too by those in the Jaaack group. I put one across them with “Snowy 2” and I put another one across them with “Battery of the Nation Project” I am good at Renewables and see the team I want to lead (lies) after the next election. You may even see “I have solar and battery at my home”, claiming renewables are good for you. How many mugs punters will buy the lies that our pollies will tell us.

    • Joe 8 months ago

      …well 48% according to Newspoll are buying The COALition

      • MrMauricio 8 months ago

        well-you can blame that on an 85% Corporate Media in this country( and a cowed ABC and SBS)!!!

        • Joe 8 months ago

          We need the voice of reason, ‘Channel 9’s Energy Expert’ Chris Uhlmann, back at The ABC…a bit of sarcasm there.

          • rob 8 months ago

            If you happened to watch the national press club today ,I found it rather funny that they stopped the coverage 4 minutes early when chrissy pissy got the chance to ask a question!

          • rob 8 months ago

            and yes me too……LOVE my ABC!

          • Joe 8 months ago

            Yes, I did watch the Joshie. The Press Club speeches start at 12.30pm and run on both Channel 2 and Channel 24. I have to ask if you were on the main channel, Channel 2. I was on Channel 24 and they went ‘overtime’ with the questions which they never cover on the main channel,Channel 2. Chrissy got this question in and answered, The Guardian’s Katharine Martin also got her question in…perhaps you might like to go over to Channel 24 for future viewings just in case of ‘overtimers’. Enjoy.

          • rob 8 months ago

            bugger I had to watch it on “normal ABC” cos I was on the phone to Campbelltown council S.A. about setting up a community SOLAR purchase plan!

          • rob 8 months ago

            I live in S.A. so there is 30 minutes difference in starting times

          • Joe 8 months ago

            I grew up in Campbelltown in Sydney’s south west. Are the two Campbelltowns… sister cities.

          • rob 8 months ago

            don’t think so Joe?

          • Joe 8 months ago

            No shame in getting your ‘priorities’ right!

        • Gregory J. OLSEN Esq 8 months ago

          Not so fast criticising the ABC there, MrMauricio, please! The ABC News has run pro-renewable stories regularly and Landline had a fantastic program on community energy last weekend: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-07/people-power:-communities-funding-their-own-wind/9630150

          • Joe 8 months ago

            Saw the Landline story, it was brilliant look at what is coming. Anyone interested can still catch the story on the ABC Iview…I can highly recommend a watch.

          • rob 8 months ago

            was excellent wasn’t it Joe!

          • Joe 8 months ago

            A jewel of a show from our gem of a National Broadcaster…yes, I love ‘My ABC’

  2. DevMac 8 months ago

    “And we must always remember, as we hear calls to nationalise the Liddell power station, that it was the NSW Liberal governmetn in 2014 that sold Liddell to AGL for zero dollars. And they were jollied along in that sale… by Abbott and Turnbull governments and their asset recycling program.”

    Hear Hear!

    The irony in the Monash family’s reaction to this group of 1950’s cheerleaders using their family name for their group is also delightful, though the situation itself is existentially depressing.

    • Joe 8 months ago

      Perhaps we are fortunate that Liddell was sold to AGL. I mean AGL topman Andy V. is staying the course to shut LIddell down in 2022. Now if Liddell was still NSW Govt owned …we can all guess what would be happening…Liddell 4ever..

      • DevMac 8 months ago

        I noticed AGL’s coal phase-out ad on TV last night. Was wondering if Andy V. is pumping that ad out more frequently in response to the Federal Government’s continued and increasing pleading / opposition to the planned closure of Liddell.

        • Joe 8 months ago

          ..yes, just to spite Two Tongues Turnbull, ‘The Moan Ash Forum’ groupies, Rupe’s newsrags and those radio shlock jock turds….Andy V. boring it right up the lot of ’em. Onya Andy V !!!

          • Paul Surguy 8 months ago

            Love it, AGL is on the right track ,Turnbull and Abbott have lost the plot

    • Ken Dyer 8 months ago

      Ah, Kristina Keneally, the sweet voice of reason, common sense and progress.

      • Joe 8 months ago

        KK is no fool despite how Rupert and his newsrags like to portray her.

    • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

      Was it zero or $1.5B? I’ve heard both numbers a few times. They would be up for remediation costs, though if they on-sold to a penny dreadful they’d wash their hands of that, that’s what many (most) resource companies in QLD have done to avoid hundreds of millions each in remediation costs.

  3. George Darroch 8 months ago

    We need to be even louder in denouncing the Coalition.

    They are a literal threat to humanity’s shared future.

    • Joe 8 months ago

      …’Crimes against Humanity’….time to prosecute these crims.

      • DogzOwn 8 months ago

        Hallelujah we need personal future liability for Ministers prosecuted for breach of due diligence, like Urgenda Nederlands

        • Joe 8 months ago

          Pissant Governments and the FF corporates all need to be hauled into Court. In Netherlands and USA the FF corporates are starting to feel the ‘legal system’ treatment…not before time either.

      • Ross Flint 8 months ago

        A book of great significance on the subject of Crimes Against Humanity – and how it relates to Climate Change is:
        ‘Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival’, by IPCC expert reviewer Dr Peter Carter and author Dr Elizabeth Woodworth, with a forward by the leading climate scientist professor James Hansen, outlines the criminality of those who actively promote the continuing emission of carbon gases into the atmosphere with full knowledge of the consequences …

        • Joe 8 months ago

          We all know that it is wilful action by ‘the climate crims’. Exxon’s scientists knew for years even before The IPCC / United Nations got involved in the issue in the 1980’s.

        • Democracy1st 8 months ago

          Thanks for your comment, Ross. If you have means of reviewing our book, “Unprecedented Crime,” on a blog or in the media, please reply to [email protected] for a pdf review copy. If you don’t have such access, perhaps you know someone who does? Best, Elizabeth

          • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

            Have you approached DeSmog Blog? They get their columns syndicated in MSM sometimes.

        • Ron Horgan 8 months ago

          Hi Ross, you might look up Polly Higgins whose movement is acting to have ecocide recognized as an international crime.

          • Ross Flint 8 months ago

            Thanks Ron – Polly H is undertaking an extremely important task!

  4. Chris Fraser 8 months ago

    Big Mal also needs to toss out his current ideas on Liddell.

    • Joe 8 months ago

      Just chuck the dude into one of boilers, its the only way we’ll get some value out of the dude. It will be a brief flareup in the boiler spiking the electricity output….then he will be gone for good.

  5. Nick Kemp 8 months ago

    Hopefully these coal lovers will be flushed out at the next election and retired before the coalition ever has the numbers in Canberra again. Another day another coal pollution story

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-10/hazelwood-mine-fire-linked-to-increased-gp-visits-health-study/9637116

    • Joe 8 months ago

      At the time of the coal fire the residents of Morwell were in a desperate situation. It was get out of town or suffer health damage by staying. It got big media coverage at the time and rightly so. The cost is always borne by the innocent. The COALie pedal went past Hazelwood and Abbott and his ‘Moan Ash Forum’ groupies were wetting themselves at every media opportunity to spruik their ‘little black wonder rock’, You would have thought that the media would have raised the issue of that infamous coal fire….I heard nothing at all.

    • Joe 8 months ago

      The Coal Fanboys are outing themselves via their ‘Moan Ash Forum’. ‘Lump of Coal Scotty’ is on the sideline barracking them on.

  6. Gus Griffin 8 months ago

    I doubt very strongly that this is simply the result of very wrongheaded conservative mindsets. This entrenching against renewables & storage by the government and media is surely being bought and paid for by fossil fuel magnates. It’s time to encourage some genuinely effective whistleblowing – there are honest Australians in a position to expose the proofs of that and we should call upon them to do so. NOW!.

    • Peter Campbell 8 months ago

      It might be hard to prove if the ‘Game of Mates’ is being played. That is, that the payout comes later in the form of lucrative post-politics jobs in industry and as lobbyists.

      • Gus Griffin 8 months ago

        That suggests a website to me – exposing the payoff networking of the past decade to forecast the same for the next decade.

        • Ian 8 months ago

          That suggests group financing of an investigative journalist to go and dig on our behalf.

          • Penny Osterhaus 8 months ago

            I’d recommend Paddy Manning .

          • Peter Lyons 8 months ago

            Agreed. We could use some fearless, US-style investigative journalism to out these shameless politicians (Daniel Ellsberg where are you?). And why is the secret internal LNP agreement, you know, that one that has Turnbull hog-tied, so hard to expose? Surely a leak is inevitable?

          • Joe 8 months ago

            …Bananabee may be able to assist

        • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

          And even when a whistle gets blown, think Murray Darling water theft right under Barnaby Joyce’s nose, does anything actually happen other than a period of intense anger from those effected? Does Leigh Sales even bother to mention it in her puff piece interviews with Joyce? (if the answer is yes, sorry I can’t even watch 730 anymore with regularity her interviews are so bad and so transparently lacking in investigative purpose and intellect)

      • Steven Gannon 8 months ago

        Mafia style

      • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

        A revolving door is alive and functional in Australian politics on both sides of the aisle. A federal ICAC is one measure that can start to redress it, as well as serious bans from using the door or concealing financial links including close relatives, punishable with jail time and big fines.

      • Greg Hudson 8 months ago

        Perfect reason to make lobbying illegal

    • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

      It’s potentially both. If the hard right are getting strings attached donations from Gina, coal barrons, et al (and that would be hardly surprising news to anybody I think) then they might be enforcing that in the coalition agreement between NP and LP, and that includes MPs in both parties pushing for it in the agreement, not just the friend of the farmer and worsening the climate to the point of no return, the National Party.

      • solarguy 8 months ago

        Alastair, You would be the man to answer this one; I just heard on the 2SM super radio network, coal lobbyist Anthony Cox claim that fossil fuels don’t get subsidies, only tax cuts.

        What is the truth exactly?

        • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

          Well I’m not up with the latest but they continue to get free potable water from the Victorian reservoir system (far as I know they don’t pay for it), no price on the damage to people’s health (which is well documented in USA public health from Harvard School of Public Policy), no price on the incalculable damage to the worlds ecosystems, civilisation and environment from climate change (for which Australia has the distinction of being the number 1 historical per capita GHG emitter) free planning law exemptions, the right to alter watercourses and no penalty when they stop a water course flowing for months on end killing its wildlife that cannot relocate.

          Oh and tax cuts like (the diesel excise rebate for miners) are absolutely a subsidy and the World Bank and WTO say so.

          Here’s a graph of USA Government subsidies to fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables. It doesn’t include the costs to the people and ecosystems of environmental pollution and damage. Sorry the source used to be in the file info but has been wiped by copying the file. Google images suggests these potential sources LINK
          original source

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9a04d1052fcb5dd9d2b82febd4fec724c093ac81666d14dcb12f4e954a005e42.jpg

          • solarguy 8 months ago

            Many thanks.

          • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

            * In fact one paper ( Potential Lives Saved by Replacing Coal with Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Production in theU.S. by Emily W. Prehoda & Joshua M. Pearce) tried to work out the lives that would be saved if USA replaced all coal generation with solar.

            They priced human lives at $1m each to determine the cost benefit. They found that the switch would come at a negative cost i.e. save money per life saved to do the switch.

            From a public policy POV you would do it straight away ASAP, from a murky political opportunism/survival/dog-whistling point of view ile. someone like Trump or the pro-coal/anti-renewables rump of the Federal Government, you’d triumphantly announce a coal renaissance (and coal continues to bleed jobs and the share price of pure coal stocks barely recovered 1% of the historical loses from the last decade or two).

          • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

            WA just stopped paying $300m a year on top of the contracted price of coal to Synergy from one of the two Collie coal mines to keep it operational. It’s still operating, but workers had already been pushed onto Award level wages and DIDO/FIFO type shift work arrangements, they fought hard on that and have won back some of their conditions but not the 90’s-level mining bonanza wages. That was a blatant subsidy that existed during the Barnett Government, under that “free market” zealot Mike Nahan as Treasurer/Energy Minister. Privatise the profits, personalise the subsidies and socialise the costs seems to be the free market mantra.

          • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

            And did Engie get a bill for the emergency services at the Moe coal pit fire that ran for 40 days? Or for the compensation bill to lost and shortened lives of elderly and children. Or having the Dept of Health down there for months running a damage control operation? Again, subsidy born by the taxpayer.

  7. Ron Horgan 8 months ago

    When sea battles were fought, surrender was signalled by lowering your flag.
    In desperate times when a battle was to be fought to the death, the flag was nailed to the mast. I suppose that the fossil fleet of rigidity could be considered brave sailing into the last battle that they will ever fight. I can’t shed a tear.

    • Alastair Leith 8 months ago

      Ah that’s where nailing to the mast comes from… thanks.

    • solarguy 8 months ago

      NO PRISONERS, NO PRISONERS!

  8. PacoBella 8 months ago

    The renewables industry must keep repeating the claim that the secret deal precludes a sensible energy policy and maintain it as fact unless the Libs and NP prove that is incorrect. Frydenberg sticks to the script about the blackout and how coal is cheaper and more reliable, despite abundant proof to the contrary. Labor and the RE combined voices have to take a leaf out of the same playbook. The answer to any question, on any topic vaguely related to energy policy has to be “the secret coalition deal precludes this!” – repeated until it sticks.

    • Mike Westerman 8 months ago

      What a puerile argument – we know there are undertakings Turnbull made and he refuses to reveal what, or why he has taken a 180 on his previous positions (eg “would not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am” became “the states targets are ridiculous”). These are facts. So are the claims made by Morrison regarding the high cost of new coal fired power and that there is no commercial interest in them. Frydenbergs statements are refuted by AEMO and well understood by anyone with knowledge of the facts: the thing most likely to lead to blackouts is few large old generators, while millions of sources of power spread across the NEM provide great resilience. It is fatuous to equate factual arguments with deliberately misleading statements.

      • Peter Campbell 8 months ago

        “would not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am”

        Perhaps he just let us think he was more committed than he really was and now appears to be.

        • Mike Westerman 8 months ago

          The context of that statement and his subsequent loss of the leadship would suggest otherwise!

          • Joe 8 months ago

            That particular quote is one that should be repeated to Two Tongues Turnbull and he should be asked to explain. He’ll probably say ( like the 30th Newspoll loss ) that it was unfortunate that he used those words….Turnbull working weasel words again. On one hand the media have no trouble in taking one line from from Julia Gillard in the lead up to the 2010 election, “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead….” but the rest of the quote is purposely omitted where Julia / Labor promised an ETS and that is what Labor delivered. On the other hand you never hear the media quoting the Abbott back to the Abbott that he himself in the past promoted a carbon tax. Only one rule at work with the media and they should be condemned for not doing their job properly.

          • Joe 8 months ago

            …’The Hollow Man’…’The PM ( Emperor ) has no Clothes’. He chucked everything he stood for overboard just so he could sit in The Big Chair……another one ticked off his bucket list.

      • solarguy 8 months ago

        Clearly and blatantly the COALalition can’t lie straight in bed. Even John Howard has come out and said that RE is cheaper than coal, on the 7.30 Report.

  9. Robert Westinghouse 8 months ago

    Even Bean Counters see renewable/batteries make sense.
    All Gran and I agree on is: the government is/has done Dirty Deals with Big Business.
    We need to act: buy more PV and Batteries and let the foreign owned BIG Power DIE….If we wait for the government, there will be no Australia left for Australians and we will live in poverty.

  10. Alastair Leith 8 months ago

    “We know, since the last federal election, the Turnbull government will never support a policy that significantly increases renewable energy, tackles climate change, or rolls back the predominance of coal,” he told the told the Smart Energy Conference in Sydney Tuesday.

    “Why? …Because the secret Coalition agreement between the National and Liberal parties which, guarantees Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, strictly forbids it.

    “And the reason this agreement is secret is because if the people of Australia knew that was the agenda at the heart of this government, they would reject it comprehensively.”

    So we can expect 730 to start asking the hard questions around this every time PM or a cabinet minister or NP leader is on the show? A task better suited to the slow burn of Lateline perhaps, oh that’s right, Lateline has been Guthried.

    • Joe 8 months ago

      Leaving Two Tonguer Turnbull’s selling his soul to the RWNJ devils, Joshie FRYdenberg gave a speech about energy and The NEG at The National Press Club today and if you missed go onto the ABC Iview to watch and listen. There was is so much to unpack I don’t know where to start. But here are a few of my takeouts….For the Coalition it is The NEG or bust, Joshie reckons that The ACT as a minority dissenter has no right to Veto the NEG – last time I checked The Senate is no rubber stamp on Govt. legislation, Our existing national fleet of 20 Coalers, including clapped out Liddell, need to be kept going- Matteo COALavan will be wetting himself with excitement, South Australia still getting smackdowns from Premier Jay’s time in office, Emissions reductions as a priority won’t be put above ‘Jobs & Growth’ – why does he thinks they are mutually exclusive, Australia will overshoot ts emissions reductions commitments – flies in the face of rising emissions every year, the last three years.

  11. DJR96 8 months ago

    So it has become abundantly clear the PM is wedged between a rock and hard place. This situation is completely unsustainable and will lead to a landslide loss at the next federal election. We all know it, the general public knows it, the PM himself knows it.

    His only way out is to expose and denounce this secret deal, distance himself from those peddling it and quickly get on board with the realities of the energy industry. It is a big risky and very gutsy move to make, but he will have to do it to have any chance of surviving. He’ll be out if he continues to go along with it.

    Australians and the conservatives in particular are disappointed in his mediocre leadership, well, here’s his chance to show the strong leadership they want.

    • solarguy 8 months ago

      He’s stuffed regardless!

      • DJR96 8 months ago

        Ha, maybe. I’m only suggesting what he needs to do to have any hope at all.

        • solarguy 8 months ago

          He will only be thought of as more untrustworthy if he does that. The electorate will despise him for being a weak PM with even less spine. Face it, he’s dead in the water, listing to port and will go under with the next salvo.

  12. jeffhre 8 months ago

    Can we change the headline already.

    Why Turnbull will “never” back renewables – for the public good

    He has already deployed solar at his own home.

    • Roger Brown 8 months ago

      His son arranged the solar system .

      • jeffhre 8 months ago

        That is what he gleefully says each time it is mentioned.

        Why just the other day my own son, using power of attorney that I didn’t know he had, took my ID, check book and credit card, sold the house we live in, arranged a new job for me, and bought a new home near the new job. Ha hah ha, all without me knowing a thing about it. It’s a blind trust ya know – because I cannot see!

        • jeffhre 8 months ago

          Yep, that’s my story, and if my boss is reading this; I’m sticking to it!

Comments are closed.