What can we say. We’d be shocked if we hadn’t been hearing the same ideological spin for so long.
Having commissioned the exhaustive Finkel review that identified more renewables as the solution to our energy woes, the Prime Minister has trashed 12 months of work and consultation and dumped its central recommendation - a Clean Energy Target. In it’s place is a plan that does two things - firstly, it removes incentives for investment in renewable energy and secondly, it throws a lifeline to dirty, unreliable coal plants that need to be closed.
It’s no coincidence that these are the very two things Tony Abbott has been campaigning for since his demise. Let’s be clear, this is a package designed to make Abbott and the denialist corner of the Government backbench happy.
While we are now 12 months into an unprecedented wind farm construction phase, with millions of dollars pouring into regional communities around Australia, this approach would slam the brakes on renewable energy.
Just as we saw with Tony Abbott’s Renewable Energy Target review, a transition to renewables can be hard to stop, so, if you want to stymie development of new wind and solar farms, endless bureaucratic nonsense, political gunfights and propping up dying industries is the way to do it.
What we saw this week was an eight page thought bubble - a “National Energy Guarantee” - nothing more than a plan to one day have a plan. The states, who are the ones who will need to legislate the Guarantee, were not even consulted before the announcement of the plan. The Guarantee will require a huge amount of work to turn into effective policy and then proceed to legislation in five jurisdictions, work that will take time that we don’t have. While a Clean Energy Target was ready to turn into law before the end of this year, it’s now unlikely that anything substantial is going to happen before the next election.
Right now, we have the tremendously successful Renewable Energy Target, which will end in 2020. The ongoing lack of Federal leadership and pandering to the coal lobby might see Australia up the climate change creek without a renewable policy paddle.
The overwhelming majority of Australians that back an expansion of wind and solar need to make their voices to the politicians that are supposed to be representing us.
For such a major announcement, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) came with almost no detail. So what exactly do we know?
With no renewables target, Australia will invest in and build less wind and solar by 2030 than would have occurred if we did nothing. The Finkel Review estimated that having no plan would see 35% of our power come from renewables by 2030. Under the NEG that amount could be as low as 28%
As the need to take urgent action on climate change increases, there is no evidence or modelling to demonstrate that the NEG will reduce pollution.
The reduction in power bills beyond that modeled under the Clean Energy Target is negligible.
This Federal policy will put the brakes on State targets and policy, hamstringing any attempt by the States to lead the way.
Rather than incentivise storage through batteries and pumped hydro, the NEG may force retailers to purchase coal-fired power, even though the market operator has said this is becoming increasingly unreliable
The NEG is likely to lead to further dependency on extremely expensive gas
Some commentators have suggested it looks awfully like an emissions trading scheme, where retailers can buy renewable energy credits from other retailers. But it lacks price point transparency and may set the bar so low that it fails to reach emissions targets, let alone be adaptable to reach the deeper targets that will be required to reach Paris targets.
Its ineffectiveness will increase pressure on other sectors to make emissions savings, likely adding cost and technology burdens in other areas, such as agriculture and manufacturing.