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How many experts does it take to turn on a light bulb?

Despite countless bodies, committees, reviews and an army of bureaucrats, we are still no closer to an energy policy and prices keep rising.

In 2005, COAG set up the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) as rule maker and as a provider of advice to Ministers on how best to develop energy markets over time.

That same year, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) was formed as part of the ACCC to act as the regulator of the wholesale electricity and gas markets in Australia to enforce the rules established by the AEMC.

In 2009, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) commenced operations to manage the National Electricity Market (NEM) and the Victorian gas transmission network.

“AEMO also facilitates electricity and gas full retail contestability, overseeing these retail markets in eastern and southern Australia. It is additionally responsible for national transmission planning for electricity and the establishment of a Short Term Trading Market (STTM) for gas.”

In 2011, we had the Garnaut Climate Change Review which included recommendations for developments in the electricity sector.

In 2012, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was established to manage the government’s renewable energy programs, with the objective of increasing supply and competitiveness of Australian renewable energy sources.

That same year, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) was established to facilitate increased flows of finance into the clean energy sector.

In 2014 we had the Warburton Review into the Renewable Energy Target.  Modelers ACIL Allen were paid $287,468 to assess the effect of the RET on energy prices but, under instructions from the government, were also told to assess the cost of coal-fired generation while ignoring climate, carbon, financing risk, as well as community opposition. In other words, to ignore commercial reality.

In March this year, Scott Morrison directed the ACCC to hold an inquiry into the supply of retail electricity and the competitiveness of retail electricity prices.

In June, the Finkel Review on how to maintain security and reliability in the National Electricity Market was released.

Then in August, COAG established a new Energy Security Board (ESB) to coordinate the implementation of the reform blueprint produced by Australia’s Chief Scientist.

Yesterday, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) announced the formation of an Expert Advisory Panel “to gain important perspectives from senior energy leaders during a period in which the energy sector is undergoing unprecedented and rapid change.”

And we are paying $29 million for a feasibility study into Snowy-Hydro 2.0 whilst they refuse to release previous feasibility studies into the project.

The Clean Energy Council is the peak body for the clean energy industry in Australia.  Instead of forming more committees and commissioning more studies and reviews, perhaps we should just listen to them.

“Unfortunately the entire energy sector and the business community are relying on our politicians to work together towards national long-term energy and climate policy. Without these foundations, it’s increasingly difficult for businesses to invest with certainty in projects that typically have investment horizons which are measured in decades rather than election cycles. The lack of long-term policy is making it very difficult to anticipate where the energy market goes from here, what happens to wholesale energy prices, how much old generation will retire – and when – and where the price signal comes from for new investment.

So in the absence of long-term policy and strategy you get announcements like Snowy 2.0 and the South Australian Government building their own gas generator.  These are essentially direct government intervention in a market that is increasingly unfit for purpose. Until state and federal politicians are prepared to cooperate however, what has been a lost decade in energy investment could potentially stretch on for much longer.

The bit of good news in all this is the Renewable Energy Target, has begun to work in earnest thanks to the complementary support from a number of state and territory government schemes, along with ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Rooftop and commercial-scale solar continues to be installed, and the business case improves every year. And every month more projects reach financial close and prepare to start work.

The unprecedented program of works which will be under construction in 2017 now adds up to more than $5.5 billion in new investment and over 3000 jobs. That’s more than any other year, including the Snowy Hydro Schemes of the past and future.”

It should be remembered that, under the Gillard government, the country did briefly have a clear direction which has since been replaced by the chaos we see now resulting in years more delay.

The government has adopted the catch phrase that they are “agnostic” when it comes to energy generation.

Considering the government’s deliberate avoidance of the implications of climate change, their refusal to accept the findings of reviews that show renewable energy will make energy cheaper in the medium term (if not already), their devotion to coal when private industry have no desire to invest, and the uncertainty created by changing policy and lack of firm direction, I don’t think agnostic is an appropriate description.

Rather than “We cannot know everything”, they are more like Sergeant Schultz.

“We know nothing!”


24 comments

  1. Judith W

    Just like the Liberal party’s employment plan. On Lateline (1/9) Craig Lundy quizzed Ed Husic on Labor’s plan but their own seems to be restricted to creating jobs to provide programs, mentoring and training for unemployed workers.

  2. Francis

    Our politicians are useful players in the game called ‘Seize their assets’, a favorite pastime of international corporate kleptomaniacs. Media could point out the obvious, but that would get them offside with their sponsors resulting in a power shift to the people.
    http://www.reserveourgas.com.au/gas_reservation_how_it_works_elsewhere
    While Australia politicians continue to give away resources in exchange for petty concessional royalties what else can we expect other than price gouging?

  3. Michael Fairweather

    This Liberal Government has spent a lot of money getting reviews started and commissions established but spent very little on getting things done for Australia and the Australian people . Their only policy seems to be rob the poor and give to the rich, and it is working very well , thank you poor people.

  4. Alphonse

    Schultz knew better. This government “knows” worse.

  5. diannaart

    Excellent work, Kaye Lee.

    “Unfortunately the entire energy sector and the business community are relying on our politicians to work together towards national long-term energy and climate policy. Without these foundations, it’s increasingly difficult for businesses to invest with certainty in projects that typically have investment horizons which are measured in decades rather than election cycles. The lack of long-term policy is making it very difficult to anticipate where the energy market goes from here, what happens to wholesale energy prices, how much old generation will retire – and when – and where the price signal comes from for new investment.

    Capitalism does not work for the long term nor the benefit of the many. The fossil fuels industry doesn’t know what to do except place as many obstacles to a long term policy as they can. Business is all profit in the very short term, this does not fit with long term plans.

    So we go round and round with committees, meetings, think tanks and do absolutely nothing.

    Well, almost. For example in California and a number of other US states, they are proceeding to invest in and build renewable, sustainable energy sources. They are ignoring Trump – which would be a very good idea for the rest of the world to do and there are many countries who are doing just that.

    Except for Australia, we are not even treading water on the problem any more, we are sinking while we let our Federal government and big business waffle on and on.

    We have at least one state, South Australia, which has given the finger to the Feds. If they can withstand the diatribes and bullying, they will arrive at a workable power source for their constituents. Go, Premier Weatherill, you brave man.

    Yes, I am aware that a repeated hurdle is that big business need a cohesive and comprehensive plan, so they can plan ahead. Well, maybe an interim plan would be for big business can invest in individual states while our Federal government continues to do nothing.

  6. wam

    they have a plan:
    as soon as climate change is agreed to not be coal they are set to make a squillion.

  7. Pat

    Fish rots from the head down……you only have to look at who the Commissioners are in the AEMC, their backgrounds, and who appointed them and you will see why this organisation has been so useless for the last 12 years, from the day of it’s inception. The only reason it was created and staffed by the “appropriate” Commissioners was to ensure that politicians could then the say “I know nothing….because they made sure they would only be told sweet nothings.”

  8. Kaye Lee

    We have the AEMC, the AER, the AEMO, the ACCC, the ESB, and now an Expert Advisory Panel. We have had the Garnaut, Warburton and Finkel reviews. We have ARENA and the CEFC and a whole department called “Environment and Energy” with a front bench Minister.

    How many experts does it take to turn on a light bulb? (Dang, that would have made a better headline…. I think I’ll change it)

  9. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    How many experts?… Infinite? They thought Finkel may have been their “Uncle Tom” on climate change – but they are not prepared to give, to compromise. I wonder how many more Harveys, Katrinas, bush fires, drowned islands, melting tundra… mudslides, polluted cities, streams and oceans, landslides due to fracking, asthma storm days…

  10. Kaye Lee

    Who needs Finkel when we have Abbott to tell us the real truth….

    “Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is to give the annual lecture to a London-based climate sceptic group.

    Abbott will give his speech, entitled Daring to Doubt, to the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) on 9 October.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/02/daring-to-doubt-tony-abbott-to-address-london-climate-sceptic-group

    An irrelevant man speaking to an irrelevant group.

  11. Shogan

    Liberal governments privatised power to corporations whose only goal is to make money for their shareholders & in doing so told us power is going to be cheaper…yeah right, I didn’t believe it then & there’s no way anyone could believe it now…I would love to know how many politicians have shares in power companies!!

  12. Glenn Barry

    Kaye LeeSeptember 2, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Who needs Finkel when we have Abbott to tell us the real truth….

    “Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is to give the annual lecture to a London-based climate sceptic group.

    Abbott will give his speech, entitled Daring to Doubt, to the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) on 9 October.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/02/daring-to-doubt-tony-abbott-to-address-london-climate-sceptic-group

    An irrelevant man speaking to an irrelevant group.

    What is the collective noun for a large number of imbeciles?

    A pratfall of clowns just isn’t derisory enough…

  13. Glenn Barry

    The real truth is that the light bulb cannot be turned on because in the midst of a debt and deficit disaster there simply isn’t sufficient funding available

  14. Kaye Lee

    Glenn, I am fairly sure that it is Labor’s fault for attracting so many illegal economic migrants who are using up all the electricity.

  15. paul walter

    Alphonse is right. Like Socrates, Schultz knows that all he knows is that he knows nothing, but people like Christian Porter think they DO know better and that is the worst sin and the worst threat..

    Nor can you tell them different.

  16. Florence nee Fedup

    Time for PM to drop agnostic nonsense. Didn’t work
    for NBN. Won’t work for a energy policy.

    Time for PM to use science to decide what are engineering and economic needs.

    Time for decisions on what is needed. That requires the PM to acknowledge facts. PM needs a spine and political nous, judgement, something he has shown little evidence.

    Nothing is going to happen until PM deals with his unhealthy obsession with Shorten, focussing on little more that ‘Kill Bill”.

    At this time he is incapable of making the decisions that need to be made. Too busy blaming Labor for all.

  17. Max Gross

    Why? Why is the LNP so adamantly anti-renewables and so pro-fossil fuel? Just check the bastards’ share portfolios!

  18. Aortic

    Just wait till the you beaut 29 million feasibility study on Snowy 2 comes up with some doozies. There will be so much energy we will have to have the lights on all day, three fridges at least and six air conditioners blasting away. Oh wait, they said it’s not going to be viable? Ah well, money well spent no doubt.

  19. Michael Taylor

    Just check who their friends are too, Max. Gina, Twiggy …

  20. Glenn Barry

    AAH yes the feasibility study on the Snowy Hydro plan and the refusal to release previous feasibility studies into pumped hydro storage.

    It’s somewhat premature of Turnbull to be spruiking the plan before the release of the study, unless the outcome was predetermined…

  21. Harquebus

    “Despite countless bodies, committees, reviews and an army of bureaucrats, we are still no closer to an energy policy and prices keep rising.”
    This is because, doing the renewable energy thing is impossible. Labor faces the same obstacle.

  22. Kronomex

    Lobbyists and donations speak louder, much louder, than renewable energy schemes and sense.

  23. helvityni

    “It’s somewhat premature of Turnbull to be spruiking the plan before the release of the study, unless the outcome was predetermined…”

    Yes Glenn Barry, too much secret men’s business happening…

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