Electricity prices: Turnbull’s central policy scare campaign

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressing the National Press Club last week, described energy as a “defining debate of this parliament”.

His speech set out Turnbull’s vision for Australia’s energy future – covering renewable energy, “clean” coal, gas, power prices and electricity security. He talked up coal, saying Australia as a big exporter needs to show we are using state-of-the-art clean coal-fired technology.

The Climate Council ran a Fact Check and found clean coal is NOT A THING.

    Large-scale wind and solar plants are already cheaper than new “more efficient” coal plants, and waaaay cheaper than coal plants with CCS.

You might expect that from the Climate Council, but Ben Potter in the Australian Financial Review reports that just about everyone is saying the same thing.

    Matthew Warren, head of the Australian Energy Council, said this week even today’s high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal plants are “uninvestible” and none of his members – the largest power generators in the land – plans to build one.

    They’re prohibitively expensive, and although they emit less carbon per megawatt hour than existing coal plants, they still emit a hell of a lot of carbon – about 700 kilograms per MWh.

    That means they’re exposed to unknowable carbon risk for 50 years – their economic lifetime – while the ministers flourishing taxpayer cheques and no carbon price might only be there for another 2½ years.

The issue of risk premium matters. Potter cites this graph from a new Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report:

Sophie Vorrath in “Clean coal” most expensive new power supply, says BNEF (and not all that clean) has more on the BNEF report:

    The research puts the Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) of a new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power station in Australia at $A134-203/MWh; significantly higher than the LCOE of new-build wind at $A61-118/MWh), solar $A78-140/MWh or combined-cycle gas at $A74-90/MWh.

Potter again:

    The Australian Energy Market Operator doesn’t expect any new coal plant to be built here. BNEF says coal and gas generation will fall from 70 per cent of capacity today to 16 per cent by 2040, while wind and solar will jump from 14 per cent to 59 per cent and more than a third of capacity will be “behind the meter” in people’s homes.

Gas looks cheaper than coal, and Turnbull said:

    “Increasing gas supply in Australia is vital for our energy future and vital for industries and jobs, but State bans on onshore gas development will result in more expensive and less reliable energy.”

However, it still produces greenhouse gases, and should be avoided if possible.

Turnbull said:

    “The battlelines have been drawn – it’s clear that the Coalition stands for cheaper energy. We are approaching this issue clear-eyed, pragmatic and objective.”

There’s more at Climate Council, including praise for Turnbull’s statement that we have to explore energy storage. They don’t mention his obsession with “synchronous” energy, which the experts have told us is a red herring. We are likely to be reminded ad nauseam about the power failure in South Australia, ignoring the fact that a storm blew down the pylons, and that the Victorian interconnector was being run at 95% capacity, unable to take any kind of surge.

To help Turnbull in his endeavors, he has acquired a new climate and energy advisor, one Sid Marris, who is leaving his role as head of climate and environment at the coal industry lobby group, the Minerals Council of Australia. While there the Minerals Council ran an ad campaign called Little Black Rock that spruiked the “endless possibilities” of coal, inter alia.

That article also contains this little gem:

So where the energy companies and the banks will not go the taxpayer will pay up.

You might recall that Canavan is the one who described the Adani Carmichael coalmine as an “incredibly exciting project” for Australia, and has previously called for funding for climate change sceptic scientists. He’s an unabashed climate sceptic.

Elsewhere Frank Jotzo in New coal plants wouldn’t be clean, and would cost billions in taxpayer subsidies explains the cost comparisons very plainly. Coal is getting more expensive, and renewables cheaper, perhaps down to A$50 per megawatt hour by 2025. “Clean” coal would still emit 80% of dirty.

Graham Readfearn in Coal lobby’s long game puts talking points into leaders’ mouths tells how:

    Climate science denier and veteran lobbyist Fred Palmer is proud of getting Australia to adopt the sector’s arguments on climate and poverty

Some of the words coming out of Turnbull’s mouth can be traced to a speech at the World Energy Congress conference in Montreal in 2010 by Greg Boyce, then the boss of US coal giant Peabody Energy.

Malcolm T, the smartest guy in the room a puppet? Who would have thought?

Then there’s Marc Hudson Ultra, super, clean coal power? We’ve heard it before who details where some of this stuff came from.

Three ANU researchers tell how a 100% renewable grid is within reach.

Sophie Vorrath in Turnbull hypes energy storage, sends mixed message on renewables tells how the $20 million allocated by ARENA for storage will go practically nowhere.

Joe Romm at Think Progress says the renewables industry will be worth $50 trillion globally and the US under Trump will miss out. He says renewables are pretty much unstoppable and has some nice graphs to show.

Turnbull and Trump will join in being the detritus of history in the energy stakes. Sad, really. Turnbull, at least, is not dumb. So what is it with him?

Phillip Coorey in the AFR reports that Labor will oppose the Coalition’s ‘unrealistic’ coal power policy.

    Labor will oppose the Coalition’s embrace of so-called clean coal for power generation, labelling the policy shift as a cynical exercise designed to keep Tony Abbott at bay.

They say Labor will stick with its aim of 50% renewables by 2030.

15 thoughts on “Electricity prices: Turnbull’s central policy scare campaign”

  1. Coal-fired power stations produce heat, smoke and CO2. A lot of the ash and dust can be caught by electrostatic precipitators.

    I remember brown dust pouring out of a Halewood chimney when the precipitators weren’t active.

    Just think about the physical processes, and the cost of somehow grabbing the very hot gases (that currently burst out of smokestacks and surge up into the sky) and extracting the CO2…. might as well grab the oxides of nitrogen while you’re at it, and why not the radionuclides liberated by coal combustion?

    Difficult task!
    Bound to cost an arm and a leg.

  2. Wind energy….

    are you telling me you don’t need to capture the wind, after it has passed across the turbine blades?

    Just let the O2 and N2 flow on by???

    Why, why, …. why….
    That’s cheating!!!!

    unfair competition…
    mutter… mutter… grumble…..

  3. Thanks Brian, another great review. As you know there is legal action occurring in various parts of the world about state responsibility for climate change. I wonder if we will be able to sue Malcolm Turnbull personally one day for his “terrible lies” in pretending to be concerned about climate change, while actually scaremongering about renewable energy? I think it is his biggest betrayal, as I’ve said previously on my blog.

  4. Our government has embraced the “clean coal” expression. It is a standard “spin” term, designed to have us believe that coal can be clean. Very Trumpesque.

    As stated within Brian’s report, the new high efficiency generators are very expensive. The turbines utilise exotic and expensive alloyed metals to withstand the very high temperatures and pressures the technology requires. But the coal is just the same and still emits all the things we need to eliminate.

    Even if the high efficiency plants did become real, they are extending the coal industry life span, a furtherance of the pollution we need to stop.

  5. The nicest thing you can say about Turnbull is that he is behaving like a professional lawyer who is required to argue his client’s case no matter how outrageous it is. LBCC (Little Bit Cleaner Coal) morphs into CLEAN COAL! Somehow it is renewables that blew over pylons. Somehow the people from SA who had solar + batteries were lying when they said they didn’t suffer from blackouts. And super clean fossil power will be cheaper! And……………..
    Alternatively all that can be said is that somehow being PM has fried his brains and he really does believe what he is saying.
    Sad for Malcolm and the planet.

  6. John, I honestly think his brains must be fried, or he wouldn’t couldn’t say the things he does.

    On CCS, Ben Potter tells us:

    HELE plants are costly – estimates range from $3 billion for 1000 MW plant (Bloomberg New Energy Finance) to $5 billion (CME, based on South African plants) for the latest (“ultra-supercritical”) HELE plant .

    Then he says:

    HELE coal plant’s carbon risk could be virtually eliminated by including carbon capture and storage. But this adds a lot more cost – about $3 billion to a 1000MW plant. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) says the levelised cost of power from such a plant is hard to estimate, because the technology is commercially untried, but could run to $350MWh unless the government guaranteed the debt, in which case it would still be more than $200/MWh.

  7. Unfortunately Ben Potter’s article was on page 16 of the AFR.

    I bought the Oz today, because of Newspoll (54-46 to Labor TPP, with ON up by 4) and they ran a report on the front page with the headline Bill to prop up green power hits $3bn a year. It’s a report commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia. It finishes on page 6, where Frydenberg says “The battlelines have been drawn blah, blah…”

    Then there is another article on page 6 Coal chiefs back PM on cleaner electricity where there is talk about the Clean Energy Fund and the Northern Development Fund being used, because the banks and the energy companies won’t show the necessary leadership.

    That’s why I don’t normally buy the rag, propoganda masquerading as news.

  8. John: Little Bit Cleaner Coal, just can’t compete.
    There was a very good piece online two years ago by Mr Elder, looking back at Mr Trunbull’s term as Leader of the Opposition, and his career as a corporate lawyer and investment banker.

    It analysed his skills and proclivities. The conclusion was that he’d be a dud PM, although intelligent.

    We’ve seen several like that, I recall.

  9. Perhaps Mr Trunbull was finally convinced that Mr Rabbit’s electoral success really was based on the pithy (that’s with a ‘th’) three word slogans and has been scrambling to adopt the same modus operandi, but performs the trick unconvincingly, because he falls into the lawyerly habit of entwining his every sentence with meandering subordinate clauses, as in the present instance; have you fallen asleep your Honour?


  10. Victoria is set to impose a permanent ban on fracking with both the ALP and the Coalition backing it.

    Victoria will become the first state in Australia to permanently ban fracking, after the Opposition party room agreed to support legislation introduced by the Andrews Government.

    The bill, to be debated in Parliament tomorrow, will also extend a moratorium on conventional onshore gas exploration in Victoria until 2020.

    Turnbull and Cori B will not be pleased with the behaviour of the Victorian Coalition..

  11. John, the claim is that the CSG in Victoria is loose and doesn’t require fracking. However, the wells, pipes and access network is very intrusive for farmers, as well as noise from compressors, leaks, people coming onto your land without contact etc.

    The bottom line in Qld that once a property is invaded with CSG the sale value goes down, which indicates the farmers are not being adequately compensated.

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