21 January, 2017
People living in North Queensland have every right to feel anxious about their State Government’s 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.
After all, they need only look to South Australia to see what happens when a state government decides to “experiment” with an energy mix that includes overly ambitious renewable energy targets while discouraging coal fire power generation while discouraging coal-fired power.
The result: power prices go up and the lights go out.
And the last thing Queensland needs right now is higher energy prices. Just this week, Australia’s largest aluminium smelter Boyne at Gladstone said it would cut jobs and production because of massive electricity price hikes, and accused one generator of holding prices at 500 times the cost of generation. Hopefully Premier Palaszczuk was listening this week when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Brisbane that clean coal fired plants must continue to be part of the mix as Australia transitions to a clean energy future.
“Our approach, and my approach, to energy is absolutely pragmatic and practical. This is not a matter for ideology,” the Prime Minister declared.
“We’ve got to be able to afford to pay the bills, and it’s got to be reliable.
“You don’t want to be in the situation South Australia is, where they have the most expensive — and the least reliable — electricity in Australia.”
Picking up on this theme in Queensland Member for Dawson George Christensen has called for a new generation super-efficient coal-fired power stations to be built near Mackay using funds from Canberra’s $5 billion Northern Australia infrastructure facility.
It wouldn’t be breaking new ground up north. In 2001, the 810MW Callide Power Plant was commissioned in central Queensland, becoming the first super-critical coal-fired power station in Australia. The original power station at Callide, built in 1965 and refurbished in 1998, was also a clean coal pioneer after it was chosen for a @45 million carbon capture and storage trial that saw most of its emissions captured and stored. In South West Queensland another super critical plant, Kogan Creek powers up to 1 million homes and is one of Australia’s most efficient plants.
The point is, the technology is here. It is already operating and is reducing polluting emissions into the atmosphere.
Around the world, clean coal technology is being embraced as the cost-efficient way to achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning the cost of keeping temperature increases below two degrees will double without the support of clean coal technology. In this context, the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 is extraordinary. Especially in a state where the private sector is leading the way on clean coal. This target is a twelve fold increase in Queensland’s current renewable energy capacity.
The Federal Government says the cost of Queensland’s renewables experiment is in the vicinity of $27 billion between 2016 and 2030.
Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg warns Queenslanders to have their candles and torches at the ready if the 50% target stays in place.
“Queensland has not offered any evidence that its unrealistic 50 per cent renewable energy target can be met without compromising energy security or without driving up power prices.
While a lower emissions future is undoubtedly important, it counts for little to the public if they are sitting in the dark. We cannot trade away the reliability of the system as we transition to a low-carbon future because to do so would be far costlier in the long run.”
South Australia, which suffered another blackout in Adelaide this week, has already shown what happens when ideology drives the race to unrealistic renewable energy targets.
Queenslanders must demand their energy future is based on rational policy decisions that protect jobs, ensure supply and keep prices in check as the nation transitions to a clean energy future.
NATHAN VASS, Former energy sector executive who established the Australian Power Project to promote sustainable national energy policy.