Coal is still the only an­swer to re­li­a­bil­ity

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

Other than be­ing there to keep La­bor out, ad­mit­tedly no bad thing, you’ve got to won­der if the Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment is los­ing its way, at least when it comes to keep­ing its elec­tion prom­ise to end the cli­mate zealotry that has put Australia’s once-en­vi­able en­ergy sup­ply at risk.

Quite rightly, this is the ques­tion many sup­port­ers were ask­ing this week when the gov­ern­ment sud­denly an­nounced an ex­tra $1 bil­lion for the La­bor-cre­ated Clean En­ergy Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion (CEFC) then added it couldn’t in­vest in coal-fired power sta­tions — even though new ones emit 30 per cent less car­bon diox­ide and the big prob­lem in our en­ergy sys­tem is too much un­re­li­able re­new­able power and not enough baseload power.

There’s some­thing not right when a Lib­eral gov­ern­ment can spend bil­lions on the Snowy 2.0 pumped hy­dro scheme but can’t find a sin­gle dol­lar for a fea­si­bil­ity study into more coal­fired power, even though it promised one dur­ing the elec­tion — then pours more money into giv­ing cheap fi­nance to the wind and so­lar farms that are putting the whole sys­tem at risk.

(And don’t get me started about putting a bil­lion dol­lars of tax­payer funds into a body that backs projects com­mer­cial play­ers won’t touch, and only ex­ists be­cause Ju­lia Gil­lard needed to buy Bob Brown’s sup­port in the hung par­lia­ment and the Coali­tion was elected in 2013 promis­ing to scrap).

The stated rea­son for the cash in­jec­tion was the need to get more re­li­a­bil­ity into the sys­tem. But the way to do this is not to build more in­ter­con­nec­tors and bat­ter­ies.

These gi­ant ex­ten­sion cords be­tween the states still need coal-fired power sta­tions to plug into be­cause bat­ter­ies are never big enough to keep the lights on and fac­to­ries go­ing (and in­dus­try means jobs).

The only way to get more re­li­a­bil­ity is to stop build­ing more gen­er­a­tion that’s depen­dent on the wind blow­ing or the sun shin­ing, and start re­plac­ing the age­ing fleet of 24/7 coal-fired baseload power.

Given po­lit­i­cal risk has spooked the pri­vate sec­tor, and the cli­mate cult has cap­tured the La­bor Party, this is the es­sen­tial job of a Lib­eral gov­ern­ment but it seems they’ve funked out — de­spite Re­source Min­is­ter Matt Cana­van’s re­ported force­ful at­tempt to re­mind his cab­i­net col­leagues.

If re­new­able en­ergy re­ally is the best and cheap­est form of gen­er­a­tion, as boost­ers claim, why does it need a gov­ern­ment bank of­fer­ing sub­si­dies in or­der to be vi­able? Con­sumers are al­ready sub­si­dis­ing wind and so­lar through the re­new­able en­ergy cer­tifi­cates that power com­pa­nies are forced to buy, and through higher prices gen­er­ally as the pref­er­en­tial treat­ment given to re­new­able power de­stroys the eco­nom­ics of baseload power. Why should mums and dads have to sup­port soft loans too, when no one else gets them?

A glance through the CEFC’s most re­cent an­nual re­port high­lights the ut­terly self-im­por­tant, virtue-sig­nalling use­less­ness of this body. Last year, it in­vested about a bil­lion dol­lars in the (mostly for­eign-owned) ex­tra so­lar and wind power that’s in­creas­ing power bills and mak­ing black­outs more likely, as well as half a bil­lion dol­lars in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency projects. For in­stance, Wool­worths (which has just been ex­posed un­der­pay­ing staff) got $30 mil­lion from the tax­payer bank to­wards the in­stal­la­tion of en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient lighting and re­frig­er­a­tion, and so­lar pan­els in su­per­mar­kets. More than $200m was put into so­cial hous­ing projects for “im­proved in­su­la­tion, LED lighting, en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances, smart me­ters and so­lar in­stal­la­tions”. Why do we need a gov­ern­ment bank to fund busi­ness to cut power bills? What’s a gov­ern­ment bank do­ing giv­ing loans to some of the big­gest cor­po­ra­tions in the coun­try?

For­get the “cli­mate emer­gency” clap­trap, Australia has an en­ergy emer­gency com­ing. If you’re pre­pared to pay enough, you can run house­holds and maybe even large build­ings on re­new­able power and bat­ter­ies. But what you can’t run on re­new­able power and bat­ter­ies is heavy in­dus­try and the jobs it sus­tains.

Given we are a high-wage coun­try in a re­gion that isn’t, re­li­able and af­ford­able elec­tric­ity was al­ways our trump card. But now, for how long?

It won’t be all the Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment’s fault if a big player such as the alu­minium in­dus­try shortly an­nounces that it’s leav­ing Australia. But the Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment will be to blame for not recog­nis­ing the prob­lem and tak­ing stronger ac­tion to deal with it.

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