When I logged on Tuesday there was an alert from John Davidson of a lead article at RenewEconomy Coalition energy plan “unworkable”, as Taylor charges into coal. It sent shivers up my spine.
There is PM Scott Morrison, shallow, ignorant and complacent, when first asked about climate change he admitted he’d never really thought about it.
There is Angus Taylor, bull-headed, supremely confident, and just plain wrong.
While Taylor’s “big stick” Treasury Laws Amendment (Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct) Bill 2018 is the subject of Senate Standing Committee on Economics hearings (see submissions here) he is pressing on with establishing tenders for “24/7” reliable power in what appears to be a mad rush to lock in contracts before the expected “caretaker” period begins in mid April, ahead of the anticipated mid-May poll.
Of the 66 proposals received, 10 include new coal. According to the AFR Taylor has all but confirmed the Morrison government is prepared to underwrite new coal-fired power stations. The proposals mostly include gas, but there is some pumped hydro, plus one from Sanjeev Gupta with a $1 billion proposal for solar with storage.
However, Taylor is known to think we already have too much wind and solar in the system. and is desperate to commit to new coal before the caretaker period of the next election. This will involve Commonwealth underwriting of risk to the extent of $7 billion, a reckless notion when the world is almost certain to realise before such a plant can be built and commissioned that new coal can no longer be tolerated.
Perhaps even worse, having the Commonwealth enter the energy generation market in such a direct and overt way is to completely disrupt state planning, for example in Queensland and Victoria, both of which have vigorous programs of creating new renewable power.
The Australian Energy Council, representing 23 major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses operating in competitive wholesale and retail energy markets, have said the Taylor’s policies, and lack of credible emissions reduction policies, make the generation sector essentially uninvestible. The Council believes that Commonwealth government action will actually reduce private investment in response to the market, thus leading to even more government intervention, with increased prices and adverse consumer outcomes the result.
Queensland considers Taylor’s moves as an attack on the state’s sovereignty (see their submission to the senate hearings above), and points out that there was zero consultation with the states.
NSW energy minister Don Harwin was furious:
- after his federal counterpart Angus Taylor blocked his bid at yesterday’s COAG meeting to discuss a national roadmap to reaching zero carbon output by 2050.
Harwin has said that generation companies which had been planning to invest earlier in 2018 are now getting cold feet after Taylor’s ascension to the ministry post the dumping of Malcolm Turnbull. Taylor’s efforts to reduce risk are adding to risk, because it is obvious to anyone with half a brain that fossil fuel emissions will have to stop long before the 50-year time frame you have to work in to build new coal.
“Yesterday” in the above quote was the COAG Energy Council meeting on 18 December, which Taylor closed down rather than discuss matters raised by NSW. It appears that the Commonwealth minister COAG Energy Council is the permanent chair. I suspect this arrangement was put in place because the Commonwealth was the only member not involved in the provision of electricity generation apart from its historic share in the Snowy Mountain scheme. Ironically now he appears to think it is his meeting.
Back in my day, in such interstate co-operation, the Commonwealth was seen as just one member of the group, and the chair was taken by the host. Possibly the Commonwealth now funds a secretariat, which supports the group and enhanced continuity, but giving the Commonwealth the chair works against the co-operative spirit which is meant to underpin these meetings.
Nevertheless, COAG groups still run on consensus, not on majority vote. The new boy with the big stick is showing no regard for due process.
Today EnergyAustralia chief Catherine Tanna labelled the ‘big stick’ bill ‘desperate and dangerous’. She told the Senate committee it is a “desperate and dangerous” measure by the Morrison government to “look tough” ahead of an election.
- Ms Tanna, who is also a board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said that if enacted, the legislation would add a layer of uncertainty on top of the policy vacuum that clouds Australia’s electricity sector.
“It’s like adding a house of cards on a foundation of quicksand,” she said.
Ms Tanna’s comments build on the criticism of the bill on Tuesday by chief executives of other two members of the “big three” generator-retailers, AGL Energy and Origin Energy, who warned the measures would scare off investment needed to replace and renew the country’s energy-supply system.
EnergyAustralia is foreign-owned, so the company has plenty options of investing elsewhere in jurisdictions which don’t carry the same sovereign risk. Also:
Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott has also voiced worries about the impact of the proposed measures on investment needed to support the transition towards a cleaner power supply.
The Grattan Institute, the Business Council of Australia and Australian Industry Group all lined up against the bill. While there is some concern about bad behaviour in the industry, virtually all industry players and interest groups are suggesting that the focus should be on the recommendations of the ACCC report on energy pricing, which did not recommend ‘big stick’ disinvestment.
AEMO has been charting the future of the NEM, so that the participating states and the industry can invest in a smooth transition to a clean energy future. Morrison has effectively put the Coalsheviks within the Coalition in charge. Led by Taylor they are being hugely disruptive, based on the notion that emissions don’t matter, that prices and keeping the lights on do, but completely misunderstanding the role and potential of renewables and the need for flexible dispatchable power, rather than a false notion of baseload.
Also creating a false sense of crisis in which they cast themselves as saviours. It amounts to a mixture of ignorance and stupidity which is making us a laughing stock around the world.
“This is coal,” Morrison began babbling. “Don’t be afraid don’t be scared won’t hurt you won’t hurt you.”
Almost stuttering in his excitement, missing pronouns, he was gibbering without punctuation. If the style was grammatically Joycean, the effect, like his previous masterpiece, “Where the bloody hell are you?”, was memorable.
He waved the piece of coal around like it was the sacred Host itself, he swung it high and he brought it so low that for a moment it was as if a wildly guffawing Barnaby Joyce seated next to him might lick it. How they laughed! The ranks of the Liberal party assembled around and behind, how they all laughed and laughed that day.
Here’s ScoMo handing the lump of coal on to a manic Barnaby Joyce:
Here’s Joyce ogling over the coal:
Malcolm Turnbull dumped the NEG (National Energy Guarantee) because he thought it the only way of keeping the Liberal Party together. The real blockage is the Nationals. Joyce is no longer in charge, but the climate denialists reign supreme.
Meanwhile over at the Climate Council they report January was the hottest month ever recorded in Australia, and Farmers are on the front line of climate change, while The Climate Council’s latest report:
“Weather Gone Wild” has found climate change is increasing the frequency and/or severity of extreme weather and that Australians are suffering as a result.
“The Coalition Government has been in power for five years and it has obstructed action on climate change while extreme weather worsens. It’s unconscionable,” said Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie
From RenewEconomy, Coal power plants in Australia broke down once every three days in 2018:
- Australia’s fossil fuel generators broke down on 135 different occasions in 2018, with coal generators failing once in every three days and new “HELE” technology favoured by the federal Coalition government failing more often than the country’s ageing black coal fleet.
Poor fellow my country.