Prime Minister Morrison has failed to come up with an energy policy, and left the industry in deep despair. Now events have overtaken the PM and left him in their dust, while smart entrepreneurs and investors forge ahead on their own. I chart the saga in despair. myself.
The Canberra Bubble
Prime Minister Morrison is fond of talking about the ‘Canberra Bubble.’ When it comes to global warming and fossil fuels, he lives in a bubble of his own. Not so long ago, he waved a lump of coal in parliament in an embarrassing display of backward thinking.
While Morrison is sprouting glib reasons for doing nothing to support clean energy in our country, events have overtaken him.
- On November 20 2019, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest announced an ambitious project to build a 10GW solar farm near Tennant Creek, with 22 gigawatt hours of battery storage, and a cable to export much of the output to Singapore.
- For 3 days in early November, renewable energy supplied more than half of Australia's national electricity market for first time. ABC News.
- Australia is installing renewable energy (solar and wind) 4-5 times faster per capita than the EU, USA, Japan and China, this ANU report shows.
- The Tesla big battery installed at Hornsdale in South Australia has helped South Australia become a net exporter of energy, in the face of incessant federal government ridicule. The battery will soon get a 50 per cent lift in capacity.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor had a better handle on these developments than the PM, and proudly showed this graph in his keynote speech to the recent Australian Financial Review Energy Summit:
Business leaders show the way to a myopic government
At the end of 2018, 14.8 GW of new energy generation was either under construction or financially committed, representing $24.5 billion in investment and more than 13,000 jobs, according to the Clean Energy Council. This has happened despite a government in terminal denial, and despite its failure to get an energy policy of any kind off the ground in a decade
Some of the investment in renewables is earmarked for Queensland, the state with the biggest carbon footprint Australia. It’s also the state that helped return the coalition to government. Queenslanders voted for Gautam Adani instead of Bill Shorten, who decided to sit on the fence instead of laying out a superior option for Queenslanders: turning the sunshine state into a renewable energy state, and building a clean energy industry that would create many more jobs than the Carmichael mine.
Several months after an election result that sent the Labor Party into a tailspin, its new leader Anthony Albanese finally announced his vision for the future. ‘The road to a low-carbon future can be paved with hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs,’ he summed up Labor’s position, ‘as well as supporting traditional jobs.’
What a surprise! If Labor had taken that vision to the last election instead of sitting on the fence and expecting government to fall into its lap, the result might’ve been very different.
‘Queensland is Dead to Us’
A few years ago, Queensland set itself a 50% renewable energy target for 2030, an idea Barnaby Joyce described as ‘bonkers mad’. He added that Queensland should not be following the example of South Australia, which he called a ‘basket case.’ With ‘the biggest coal resources on the planet,’ Joyce said, ‘Queensland should focus on developing affordable, reliable, coal-fired power stations.’
Queensland’s Energy Minister Mark Bailey’s response was: ‘What's bonkers is sticking your head in the sand and pretending climate change doesn't exist.’ He added that Queensland was committed to a clean energy future … and to ‘protecting the Great Barrier Reef while maintaining economic growth and jobs in our regions.’
Meanwhile Adani’s Carmichael Mine has been approved, Mark Bailey is no longer Queensland’s energy minister, and big solar power projects are facing a serious obstacle: in May this year, the state government passed new regulations that restrict the handling and mounting of solar modules to licensed electricians.
Renewable Energy providers claim the new regulations will stall big solar projects, choke them in red tape, lose regional jobs and increase solar project costs. ‘Queensland is Dead to Us’, was the response from one provider of solar farms. The ‘farmers’ have taken the government to the Supreme Court, and have won the first two rounds.
Clueless and Hopeless
There’s another hurdle standing in the way of clean energy: an outdated grid that needs urgent upgrades to enable streamlined connection and integration of renewable energy projects. Ironically, it was Adani who ran into this issue when the connection of its 65 MW solar farm near Moranbah, designed to supply power over 23,000 regional Queensland homes and businesses, took some 7 months to complete.
Wouldn’t it be great if governments either helped or got out of the way? The Morrison government did just that: The New Daily reported on November 26 2019 that 'State governments have decided – once again – to go it alone on energy after coming to the conclusion that the federal government has no intention of putting in place a coordinated national plan on energy and emissions, and will instead continue its ad hoc and chaotic decision making.'
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