“Ten years of brutal, opportunistic politics has left this nation with no credible energy policy.”
The money quote from Jay Weatherill’s outburst was this:
- “Josh Frydenberg was humiliated back in December. We were working with him to introduce an emissions intensity scheme. He knows that. It was well advanced. It was about to happen. Coal interests in the federal Coalition government basically cut him down before he even had a couple of hours explaining it.”
That was highlighted in Paul Bongiorno’s piece in The Saturday Paper. Bongiorno goes on to say:
- Ten years of brutal, opportunistic politics has left this nation with no credible energy policy. We are now seeing climate change denialism preventing any rational path to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. That’s a bipartisan target that Australia – under the Turnbull government – signed up to in Paris. It’s just 33 years away. Investors get it, and they are unwilling to put their money into coal-fired power stations that have a 40-year horizon to turn a profitable dollar.
Resources Minister Matt Canavan, a Queensland National, is pushing hard in the opposite direction. He is arguing for taxpayers’ funds to build a new “high-intensity low-emissions” coal-fired power station. And he is not talking about carbon capture and storage, but championing the oxymoron of “clean coal” – basically a technology that delivers 70 per cent dirty emissions rather than 100 per cent. Gas delivers 50 per cent and renewables zero.
For the record here’s what happened at the launch of a project organised by AGL where 1000 Adelaide homes with solar and batteries were being linked to form what is touted as the world’s largest virtual power station, with 5MW capacity. The Feds chipped in $5 million from ARENA, an outfit Abbott tried to destroy, save by Clive Palmer, as I recall.
Some of the links were provided by readers of this blog.
This ABC video at The Guardian shows how Frydenberg goaded Weatherill mercilessly about how the folly SA policies on renewables had caused mayhem and blackouts, boasted about the Snowy scheme for pumped hydro, and said the states and the Commonwealth need to co-operate. You can see the steam coming out of Weatherill’s ears, then he is asked by a reporter whether he finds this all a bit galling.
Media coverage by and large missed the bollocking from Frydenberg, and largely framed the event as an unprovoked attack by Weatherill. Media Watch said “Last Thursday South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill barged into Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg’s press conference with the clear intention of ambushing him”. Mark Kenny headlines Weatherill gatecrashing the press conference, although Weatherill did have an invitation, albeit late. These charactaristisations are, I think, misleading.
The fairest account probably goes to the ABC, where this exchange began the whole thing:
“Isn’t this all a little bit awkward?”
It was a fair question, as Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill stood side by side, preparing for an impromptu press conference.
After all, the Energy Minister has spent months lambasting the South Australian Government’s energy policies, much to Mr Weatherill’s barely contained fury.
So, would the next 10 minutes be a little excruciating?
“No!” declared Mr Frydenberg. He was focused on accentuating the positive.
Jay Weatherill had other ideas.
“It’s about to be” he murmured, almost inaudibly.
Weatherill knew what Frydenberg would say, and that he would have to set the record straight.
After Frydenberg performs entirely as expected, Weatherill dumps on the hypocrisy of Turnbull and Frydenberg in a calm but deadly manner, as shown more fully in this video which starts later and goes further.
The bloke behind nodding agreement is energy minister Tom Koutsantonis. The bald guy smiling is Andrew Vesey of AGL.
Here’s the transcript which again does not start at the beginning. Towards the end Frydenberg repeats the lie that SA’s problems were caused by the state going alone.
Finally here a hilarious take from The Advertiser showing Frydenberg’s possible thoughts under the withering attack.
For context we need to remember that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which is a Commonwealth target, established by Labor was taken over by the Abbott and Turnbull governments. SA Treasurer and Minister for Minerals and Energy Tom Koutsantonis told Patricia Karvelas on RN that the state’s 50% renewable energy target was aspirational only, they had nothing to back it up. The wind investments In SA were subsidised by the RET and happened because it was a good wind province.
The blackout in September was caused by a storm blowing the power lines down, and the fact that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) was running the Haymarket interconnector to Victoria at near full capacity. The blackout in February was caused by AEMO failing to get the Pelican Point second gas turbine operating in time.
Danny Price in the AFR goes back to the Warburton review into the RET in August 2014, where:
- the Australian Energy Markets Operator (AEMO) assured him the NEM design was well placed to deal with challenges of integrating renewables. Warburton quoted AEMO as saying that they consider it “technically feasible to integrate the renewable energy likely to emerge from the existing RET settings while maintaining the security of the power system” even though AEMO recognised that there would be greater challenges in South Australia given the high penetration of wind from the Commonwealth’s funding of wind in that state.
In spite of these reassurances, Warburton went on to recommend AEMO consider making better use of their powers to ensure these security issues are managed with more prudence, and to consider new arrangements to encourage greater provision of system security services. Warburton reported that AEMO was continuing to study these issues and intended to release further reports.
So AEMO took responsibility, as it should, and must now take the blame.
In fact May 2016 Weatherill:
- urged the federal government to take national leadership at an Emissions Reduction Summit to improve the adaptability and resilience of the electricity market, but this fell on deaf ears.
After the September blackouts, Price says:
- the Prime Minister and federal Energy Minister launched a relentless and dishonest campaign against a state government in the midst of a crisis.
Nevertheless Weatherill subsequently worked with Frydenberg on the notion of an emission intensity scheme, which takes us up to where we started at the top of the post. The scheme did not last half a day when Frydenberg floated it.
Price says that the South Australian plan to keep the lights on is quite compatible with the National Energy Market, and was necessary because of federal failure. Weatherill has committed the state to work with anything sensible the federal government comes up with.
So a coherent policy is required at national level. On the evidence at present Price thinks we are heading for a third world energy system.