Keith Pitt failing to grasp the basic concept of batteries is merely the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to renewable energy, Canberra has no idea.
Three years ago, then Treasurer Scott Morrison declared the government was not interested in subsidising any source of energy.
“The days of subsidies in energy are over, whether it is for coal, wind, solar, any of them,” Morrison said.
“That is the way I think you get the best functioning energy market with the lowest possible price for businesses and for households and that is what the national energy guarantee and our energy policies are designed to achieve.”
Fast forward to this week when Keith Pitt, the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, blocked a loan for the Kaban green energy hub which had been approved by the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility (Naif) in January.
The blocked funding would have helped build a 157-megawatt wind farm and 100MW battery and included a 320km transmission line upgrade.
Pitt’s reason for overruling the decision was that investment in “mature technologies” like wind and solar energy would be driven by the private sector whilst the government’s policy was to support dispatchable generation.
I’m not sure what Mr Pitt thinks batteries are for.
Instead of giving a loan to a commercially viable renewable project that would have employed about 250 people in its construction, the government has announced hundreds of millions in direct funding to the already very profitable gas industry.
In March, the AEMO published their Gas Statement of Opportunities in which they said:
“Industrial demand for natural gas is not forecast to grow in the next 20 years, and could potentially reduce significantly as industrial users in the gas sector start to decarbonise.”
Head of the Energy Security Board, Kerry Schott, says increasing gas supply won’t bring prices down “when there are a whole lot of other things around that are cheaper in price, like wind, solar and big batteries, like pumped hydro and we’ve got Snowy 2.0 coming.”
“Nobody is going to build it from the private sector because it doesn’t stack up. Because it’s expensive power, it’s hard to see it makes commercial sense.”
After years spent trying to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the government is now trying to change the legislation to redirect money into their own preferred technologies, including carbon capture and storage, gas generators, and hydrogen produced from fossil fuels.
In typical Coalition fashion, Angus Taylor has stacked the board at ARENA with handpicked appointments that he hopes will do his bidding.
Meanwhile, in March, the European parliament voted to forge ahead with carbon levies on products from countries with weak environmental laws.
Two senior European officials said the transition to green technologies would drive power shifts away from those controlling and exporting fossil fuels, mainly referring to oil-rich countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, suggesting that traditional fossil-fuel exporters would need to diversify their economies and free themselves from the “oil curse” and the “corruption it so often fosters”.
As Professor Warwick McKibbin pointed out, “The economic cost of a carbon border adjustment mechanism is nothing compared to the issue Australia will have to deal with economically when its fossil fuel export industry dramatically declines over the coming decades. There needs to be a reopening of the debate on how to create a world-leading framework for climate and energy policy in Australia.”
Despite all the dire warnings from climate scientists, the direction suggested by energy experts, the agreement from economists and the business community, and the threats of trade sanctions, a handful of politicians in Australia have put their short-term vested interests in front of the inevitable action we must take to tackle this global emergency.
Why is it that everything to do with the pandemic is predicated on “the best medical advice” but, when it comes to the health of the planet, it’s all about the profits for political donors and the electoral prospects of a few politicians?
When we have idiots like Matt Canavan, whose brother’s coal company recently went broke, saying “Renewables are the dole bludgers of the energy system, they only turn up to work when they want to,” what hope have we got?