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.
- 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.
- “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:
- Turnbull said this week the Clean Energy Finance Corporation should be able to fund new coal-fired power plant and resources minister Matthew Canavan has said the $5bn Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility was open to “clean” coal projects.
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.