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Ideology and idiocy

Yesterday in Question Time, Malcolm Turnbull stood up and lambasted the “sorry tale of Labor mismanagement” of energy policy. He particularly criticised South Australia and described the Victorian government’s call for more renewables as “ideology and idiocy”.

Mr Turnbull was supposedly basing his comments on the latest annual Electricity Statement of Opportunities released yesterday by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

He quoted some figures about the likelihood of blackouts in Victoria and South Australia this summer but then he completely misrepresented the thrust of the report which is that any delay or impediment to investment in renewable energy will lead to less reliable supply.

These are the parts of the report Malcolm seemed to miss:

From 2018–19 to 2021–22, progressively decreasing levels of potential Unserved Energy (USE) conditions are observed over the next four summers, due to increasing renewable generation.

– the projected USE risks increase if maximum demands are higher than forecast (for example due to higher usage and/or lower than projected uptake of energy efficiency measures or rooftop PV).

– the projected USE risk decreases if the modelling assumes increased investment in renewable generation.

– Any material reduction in capacity over the peak summer months (for example, from slower than projected renewable generation installation, lower than projected yield from wind, or reduced capacity of thermal plant during high temperatures) could lead to significant supply shortfalls and USE not meeting the current reliability standard.

The USE risk is expected to ease from 2018–19 in South Australia and Victoria, as peak demand is moderated by increasing rooftop PV uptake and energy efficiency, and additional large-scale renewable generation enters the NEM.

There is a significant difference in USE forecasts in the later years of the 10-year outlook between the Committed and Existing generation scenario and the additional renewable scenarios, highlighting that delays in the development of this future investment will keep USE risks heightened for longer.

The government’s “agnostic” approach to electricity generation completely ignores the dangers of exacerbating climate change through the continued use of fossil fuels.

When climate sceptic Dick Warburton (also of Note Printing Australia bribery scandal fame) was appointed to head the review into the Renewable Energy Target, he specifically instructed the modellers ACIL Allen to ignore climate change and the likelihood of a carbon price, financing issues and community views when assessing the prospects for coal-fired generation.

Add in highly conservative estimates of the cost of solar and wind generation and benign forecasts about the cost of coal and gas and this highly constrained report still found that a scenario of 30 per cent renewable by 2020 would deliver the greatest benefit to consumers, jobs and the industry, and would be the most economically efficient.

According to the World Economic Forum, “Insurers estimate that since the 1980s weather-related economic loss events have tripled.”

AEMO’s report says “The overall responsiveness and resilience of the system is at risk from increased vulnerability to climatic events, such as extended periods of high temperatures, and the risk of loss of, or reduction in output of, major generation units.”

So what is Turnbull’s response to all of this?

Keep an old coal-fired power station going for a few years past its use-by date*, flirt with building new government-funded coal-fired power generators, and offer to build a railway to a new coal mine.

Oh and Snowy-Hydro 2.0 which will cost billions and take many years to build if it is actually even feasible. As opposed to wind, solar and battery storage which can be up and running with little lead-in time.

Agile and innovative? Or ideological idiots?

*This is the response from AGL to Turnbull’s announcement about keeping Lidell open:

“AGL has committed to the closure of the Liddell power station in 2022, which is the end of its operating life. AGL has provided this advance notice to avoid the volatility created by the sudden exit of other coal-fired power stations. AGL is actively assessing what capacity will be needed post 2022 and we, along with other market participants, will consider AEMO’s report in light of these plans.”


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  1. Terry2


    Turnbull told Parliament yesterday that his government wanted AGL’s Liddel power station to remain operating for “at least” another five years beyond its scheduled 2022 closure and that he and Frydenberg were in discussions with AGL to this end.

    AGL chief executive Andy Vesey quickly jumped on to Twitter to reiterate that AGL was “getting out of coal” and that “keeping old coal plants open won’t deliver the reliable, affordable energy our customers need”.

    Later Turnbull conceded that AGL would not be retaining Liddel and perhaps somebody else would buy it !!!

    In fact, there had been no ongoing discussions with AGL and it seems that Turnbull was misleading the parliament and the Australian people.

    Waiting for today’s Question Time.

  2. Kaye Lee


    Origin Energy chief executive Frank Calabria said Origin had committed to build 1200 megawatts of wind and solar power over the past 12 months as the cost of the technologies continued to fall, and that Origin backed Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s energy security plan including the CET.

    Mr Calabria said if other investors felt able to make a new coal plant investment workable under the higher CET that Joyce and Abbott want that was up to them, but it would be unlikely to persuade Origin to build one.

    “As we speak it’s unlikely we’d be an investor in coal,” Mr Calabria said. “We see that there are alternatives available to us that are more attractive.”

    The chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator Audrey Zibelman said industry and households are plunging into renewable energy regardless of policy and policymakers needed politicians to implement the Finkel plan so they can redesign markets to deal with more variable power in the grid.


    One of Australia’s major electricity generators, CS Energy, has dismissed Malcolm Turnbull’s call for the construction of new coal-fired power stations.

    “It would surprise me greatly if there were ever any more coal-fired technology built in Australia,” chief executive Martin Moore told 7.30.

    “You’ve still got to think that ultra super-critical produces twice the emissions of gas-fired technology.”

    He says building an ultra super-critical plant would cost about $2 billion, and he doubts even government subsidies would make a difference.

    “These assets have a plant life roughly of 40 years, so it’s a very very big long-term bet.”

    CS Energy has also cast doubt on carbon capture and storage technologies in the power generation sector.

    “It’s possible to retrofit this to existing coal-fired plants but commercially the numbers don’t stack up,” he said. “I think that technology may well be bypassed.”


    The only people not facing/telling the truth are the minerals council whose words the government parrots

  3. Harquebus

    Yesterday in Question Time, Scott Morriscum stood up and said that Australians want growth to provide jobs, security and prosperity or something like that. He has no idea of the damage that this dangerous ideology has done nor of the consequences which, are now starting to appear. Energy supply issues being just one. Climate change is another.

    The energy debate is progressing as expected. Not once has EROEI been mentioned and is why a coherent viable policy for sustainability has not been forthcoming and won’t.

    The political class continues to react to the symptomatic issues that these two concepts are contributing to and not the causes. Their core ideology, growth and consumption, is extremely idiotic.

  4. Keith

    The Turnbull government is completely reckless in relation to climate change.

    In 2012, Munich Re stated that the cost of natural disasters worldwide was $180 billion, that includes earthquakes and vocanic action though these were relatively low costs in comparison to climate change influences. For 2016, Munich Re stated the costs of natural disasters was $175 billion. These costs do not take into account uninsured private and government properties.
    While there are no estimates in relation to the damage done by Harvey, estimates vary wildly from $70 billion up to $170 billion; arguably flood damage will be higher in South Asia. Pollution created by metro-chemical plants at Houston add to costs created.

    Now we have Irma which will impact on Caribbean Islands and Florida, forecasts under 5 days are seen to be quite accurate for storms such as Harvey and Irma . Florida is very vulnerable to high waters create by storm surge due to low lying land; add to that Hurricane winds.
    Following Irma, is a further storm brewing … Jose, though what becomes of it is too early to say, storms dissipate at sea when we are lucky.

    Warm waters in low latitudes are needed to develop Tropical Storms and they can develop into Hurricanes/Typhoons/Cyclones. Oceans take longer to pick up warmth than the atmosphere and land; though once retained the warmth created has an impact on the storms that can normally be expected .

    Politicians were happy to sign the Paris Accord; but, ideology and dollars get in the way of making decisions in relation to climate change.

    The question is how long can the cost of storms, drought, and wildfires be sustained before major economies collapse? Harvey is a pointer showing how infra-structure on the coastline needs to be placed on higher ground.

    Arguably creating new coal mines in Queensland and African countries will provide extra greenhouse gases. Australian coal mining companies are apparently wanting to develop coal mines in Africa.

  5. Ross

    The government has provided money for a feasibility study into the feasibility of the previous feasibility studies for extension of the Snowy Hydro Project.
    I believe the ABC Utopia TV show has an upcoming episode on how this latest government feasibility study will be conducted and the reports this feasibility study will generate for government to action or ignore as per the previous feasibility studies.

  6. Kaye Lee


    The first Commonwealth parliamentary inquiry into the development of northern Australia was held in 1912. And it has been talked about ever since with unsuccessful trials aplenty.

  7. Frank Smith

    The Coalition’s War on Renewables” is really coming home to bite them. Please get out of the way and allow investment to flow. There are numerous renewable projects on the books just waiting for investment certainty in all states. It is clear to any logical person that renewables with the correct amount of storage will be the future electron supplier to the grid – so let us get on with it. Using solar and wind as complementary generators, as proposed in the very large Kennedy Energy Park Stage 2 project near Hughenden in north Queensland, provides a great example of how science and engineering can provide 21st century solutions. And Mal, we really don’t need to drag up the 1970’s Snowy Pumped Hydro proposal again in the form of another feasibility study – the 500MW Wivenhoe Pumped Hydro power plant just west of Brisbane has been operating successfully since the 1980’s. Just identify similar “saddles” in hills above existing water storages in which an “upper dam” can be quite quickly and cheaply constructed – there are plenty of suitable lower dam water storages around Australia. And, of course, use solar and/or wind generated power to pump the water back up to the top dam. The technology is all there – forget about prolonging the life of old coal generators and start encouraging the necessary investment in renewables with storage.

  8. diannaart

    Malcolm Turncoat sleeps well at night, he has less to think about and less to think with; he loses neurons every time he lies… this is a boon to nation leaders in the 21st century. Back-flipping on every utterance he made before achieving the top job in Australia, can only be done with the perfection of the spotless mind.

    Aaaah to sleep, perchance to dream…


    I watch Utopia and experience flashbacks, PTSD and have been observed fleeing from the flat screen shrieking incomprehensibly – I used to work in a public service department.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Some of these politicians are delusional.

    Turnbull says “The Energy Minister and I are already in discussions with the owner of Liddell, AGL, about how we can ensure that that power station stays in operation for at least another five years after 2022.”

    Frydenberg said “(It’s) a serious signalling of our intent that we will do everything we can to keep sufficient baseload power in the system,”

    Turnbull then said that the AGL boss had told him “he would be prepared to discuss selling to a responsible party who would be able to keep the power station going for a period”.

    Abbott then tweeted that it was “good that AGL is no longer getting out of coal”.

    The head of AGL responded:

    .@TonyAbbottMHR We’re getting out of coal. We committed to the closure of the Liddell power station in 2022, the end of its operating life.

    Then Matt Canavan went on the attack

    Replying to @AndyVesey_AGL
    .@AndyVesey_AGL @TonyAbbottMHR what a joke! You say your getting out of coal in 2050!!

    Followed by

    Hay @AndyVesey_AGL if you want out of coal sell your coal power stations for book value and ease your moral guilt!

    After which Mr Vesey referred them to the ASX media release from this morning which says “the company has made no commitment to sell the Liddell Power Station nor to extend its life beyond 2022.”

    Talk about beating your head against a brick wall.

  10. jimhaz

    [Oh and Snowy-Hydro 2.0 which will cost billions and take many years to build if it is actually even feasible. As opposed to wind, solar and battery storage which can be up and running with little lead-in time.]

    Nope. Hydro storage is massively superior when considered within the timeframe of decades. Mind you massive scale Hydro storage would never be possible for SA or most other states, so battery storage is the only option for them.

    Trouble is I think the Snowy idea is a delaying tactic, much like what they have done, and are still doing (the survey high court case helps them delay even further, so they don’t care about the result), with SSM.

  11. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    Not unlike trying to have a discussion with some of the commentators here.

    As public debate rages about issues like immunization, Obamacare, and same-sex marriage, many people try to use science to bolster their arguments. And since it’s becoming easier to test and establish facts—whether in physics, psychology, or policy—many have wondered why bias and polarization have not been defeated. When people are confronted with facts, such as the well-established safety of immunization, why do these facts seem to have so little effect?


    Self-identity may be threatened when presented with facts negating a person’s ideology, holding to one’s identity transcends simple factual information:

    Even when we think we’ve properly corrected a false belief, the original exposure often continues to influence our memory and thoughts. In a series of studies, Lewandowsky and his colleagues at the University of Western Australia asked university students to read the report of a liquor robbery that had ostensibly taken place in Australia’s Northern Territory. Everyone read the same report, but in some cases racial information about the perpetrators was included and in others it wasn’t. In one scenario, the students were led to believe that the suspects were Caucasian, and in another that they were Aboriginal. At the end of the report, the racial information either was or wasn’t retracted. Participants were then asked to take part in an unrelated computer task for half an hour. After that, they were asked a number of factual questions (“What sort of car was found abandoned?”) and inference questions (“Who do you think the attackers were?”). After the students answered all of the questions, they were given a scale to assess their racial attitudes toward Aboriginals.

    Everyone’s memory worked correctly: the students could all recall the details of the crime and could report precisely what information was or wasn’t retracted. But the students who scored highest on racial prejudice continued to rely on the racial misinformation that identified the perpetrators as Aboriginals, even though they knew it had been corrected. They answered the factual questions accurately, stating that the information about race was false, and yet they still relied on race in their inference responses, saying that the attackers were likely Aboriginal or that the store owner likely had trouble understanding them because they were Aboriginal. This was, in other words, a laboratory case of the very dynamic that Nyhan identified: strongly held beliefs continued to influence judgment, despite correction attempts—even with a supposedly conscious awareness of what was happening.

    In a follow-up, Lewandowsky presented a scenario that was similar to the original experiment, except now, the Aboriginal was a hero who disarmed the would-be robber. This time, it was students who had scored lowest in racial prejudice who persisted in their reliance on false information, in spite of any attempt at correction. In their subsequent recollections, they mentioned race more frequently, and incorrectly, even though they knew that piece of information had been retracted. False beliefs, it turns out, have little to do with one’s stated political affiliations and far more to do with self-identity: What kind of person am I, and what kind of person do I want to be? All ideologies are similarly affected.


    I do know we need to persist with the truth, but we need to be sensitive to people’s sense of worth.

    And I don’t know how to do this, before I run screaming at the difficulty.

  12. economicreform

    What these conservative politicians do not understand (because they have not read the expert reports) is that the price of renewables-based energy, and particularly solar, has been falling dramatically all over the world during the past decade. To the extent that projections predict that within the next few years it will be cheaper than energy obtained by burning coal. The phasing out of coal is therefore inevitable, based on purely market based considerations — irrespective of any ideological positions that politicians might happen to hold.

  13. Wayne Leviston

    I understand the concept of stored pump hydro, but with it has only really been proven efficient with the use of coal powered electricity to pump the water uphill to the storage dam off-peak. With the eventual demise of coal electricity, will battery storage be in the planning stages of Snowy 2.0? All I see is Mal pointing at shiny things.

  14. jimhaz

    [I do know we need to persist with the truth, but we need to be sensitive to people’s sense of worth.]

    Truth is so difficult to define in relation to social issues. It is often more about “predictions of what is most likely to end up being true” and what do people base these predictions on – probably the way they think habitually – what you have thought before factually and emotionally are stored as memories and will be automatically called upon to initially form a current opinion each time the “competition” about who is right about an issue arises.

    It is a pity we automatically go into a competitive frame of mind when it comes to predictions, where competition induces adrenalin and status anxieties affect our thinking, though of course we certainly need to have this competition as evolving herd animals.

  15. diannaart

    Indeed, Jimhaz

    Your comments regarding racial identity play with truth: anyone over 50% genetically should no longer be classified as aboriginal. Well unless you respect the “emotional value of identity” in that group but not respect it in white groups…jimhaz September 6, 2017 at 3:49 pm https://theaimn.com/day-day-politics-telling-lies-god/#comments

    Your “truth” being that the standard for humans is that of the white male.

  16. Michael Taylor

    jimhaz, you might want to look up the accepted criteria for being an Aborigine. I haven’t seen anything that says they have to be black. Two hundred years ago, maybe. But not today.

    There are few – in any – Aborigines left who are of Aboriginal blood only. If the criteria was based on blood only then we would be saying, sadly, that the Aboriginal race had died out.

    The important criterion now is ‘culture’. A person of white appearance can be an Aborigine because he or she identifies with and or practices that culture.

  17. Frank Smith


    As an ex-CSIRO senoir scientist I also subscribe to Scientific American and the New Yorker and found the articles you linked to very informative. I urge all on this site to study them. And the nub of the section of the articles that you refer to is:

    “False beliefs, it turns out, have little to do with one’s stated political affiliations and far more to do with self-identity: What kind of person am I, and what kind of person do I want to be? All ideologies are similarly affected.”

    That conclusion needs to be noted when devising strategies countering “fake news” or registering counter-arguments to views that any of us may not agree with.

    Jimhaz and Michael Taylor – take note, I suggest that you study those articles and think hard before you comment!

  18. diannaart

    Thank you, Frank

    The article gave me a great deal to think about. Such as, why discussion is so often so fraught and why identity is very much a part of ourselves it needs/must be included as part of any discussion.

    The idea we can divorce ourselves from our identity in order to hold rational arguments is false – an ability reserved for a psychopath – someone without a sense of self.

    This is why respect is so essential, we can lose respect, however, if we start without it then there is very little hope for negotiation and/or compromise.

    I would love to see Jimhaz stand face to face with someone who has lived their entire lives in an Aboriginal community and tell them they are white, because that’s what the DNA tests show.

  19. Michael Taylor

    Michael Taylor – take note, I suggest that you study those articles and think hard before you comment!

    Please tell me, Frank, what it is that I have to study up on before commenting.

  20. Kaye Lee

    I have been listening to the ABC all day and not one person has mentioned the quotes from the AEMO report about investment in renewable energy. They read the bit about possible outages this summer and went no further before jumping on board with government subsidies for a 50 year old coal-fired power station in 5 years time. Who would want to buy it and why would AGL sell to a competitor?

    Turnbull repeated his idiocy line today and attacked Labor for the Lidell power plant closing. Matt Canavan has attacked AGL. Do they not understand that things wear out? If they wanted to control such things they shouldn’t have privatised our energy network. How Labor can be blamed for a private company’s decisions is beyond me. Everyone in the industry is blaming the uncertainty caused by the Coalition’s ideological opposition to carbon pricing and their dithering about any sort of coherent policy.

  21. Roswell

    It happened in SA in the 1980s, Kaye, after Liberal premier John Olsen sold off ETSA (the Electricity Trust of South Australia) to the Chinese. Then the blackouts started. We always had them – too many of them – but the frequency soon went into warp speed after the privatisation.

    Thank god for Turnbull it was Labor’s fault. ?

  22. Joseph Carli

    That little bastard , Olsen did more than a few dirty deals when he was Premier..not least was the Glenelg marina swindle, where his wife ended up with two apartments built there…I believe Leighton Holdings was in the mix along with half the Adelaide Liberal Party!
    I remember he was sent as “ambassador for Los Angeles Lakers (A local joke) to cool his heals while the heat wore off here in SA.. I suspect there were some people getting up a lynching party for him!

  23. Michael Taylor

    Olsen was a pig of a man.

    Malcolm Fraser tried to entice him into federal politics. Thought he was too good for state politics.

    Pigs do well in the Liberal Party in Canberra.

  24. Joseph Carli

    The Adelaide private school system had control of SA politics for much too long..it is why they spoke of Don Dunstan as “That half-caste Melanesian bastard”…
    There’s been some filthy traitors in the Liberal Party of Australia AND the Murdoch media..a hemp noose would be too good for them!

  25. Dave Bradley

    Even with the limitations of Turnbull’s NBN 2.0 it isn’t hard on google to find what nearly stopped the Snowy Hydro dead in it’s tracks only 10 years ago .

    Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 will be just as vulnerable to Snowy Drought 2.0 as it was in 2007

    Drought leaves Snowy scheme gasping http://www.smh.com.au/news/environment/drought-leaves-snowy-scheme-gasping/2007/05/06/1178390145463.html
    Drought threatens future of Snowy Hydro scheme http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2007/s1884682.htm
    How the drought of 2007 affected specific power stations http://www.wattclarity.com.au/2010/10/how-the-drought-of-2007-affected-specific-power-stations/
    Why are the Snowy Scheme water storages so low? http://www.snowyhydro.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/SnowyHydro_MR_137.pdf

    Look up Advanced Rail Energy Storage for a storage solution as efficient and only half the price as pumped hydro, Drought proof and all build-able in Australia by Australians with Australian materials in existing Australian factories

    Energy Storage Hits the Rails Out West https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/energy-storage-hits-the-rails-out-west/
    ARES system to put energy storage on the right track https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7J0TcheEMc

    Our railway workshops or shipbuilding yards could have this solution up and running on renewables or off existing plants in months not years or decades with the LNP coal obsessed plans

  26. Kaye Lee


    We have a lot of ideas and options that could and would be pursued if this government would stop its ridiculous obsession with coal. Researchers and investors are ready to go – they just need Turnbull to show some leadership in his own party.

  27. Joseph Carli

    They (the coal energy producers) are like a car dealer with too many of last years models on his sales-room floor…He has to off-load the old models to make way for the new..so he sells at a discount ..come in Malcolm Turnbull…there’s not many come along in one’s coal-fired plant life-time like himself!

  28. Zoltan Balint

    The Snowy Hydro 2.0 is just a ‘live in hope’ idea as it will not solve the problem faced before it can be built. The environmental damage buoilding two extra dams is one thing that needs to be considered. Please read the report attached.

    Pump Up the Storage

    In creating, in effect two extra dams also consider the extra methane production due to organic matter degredation in the dams and the effect on climate change. Methane is far more potant gas than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate change.

    The LNP saying Labor is responsible Turnball is forgetting that he and is group have been in power for the last four plus years. Have they been sleeping during this time. They were at the wheel for three years when South Australia had the power outage and when NSW had the problem.

  29. Florence nee Fedup

    Why would AGL want to sell Liddell when they have plans to replace it with massive renewal infrastructure?

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