By Terence Mills
The messages coming from this government in so many areas are confusing and contradictory, and whilst they talk about energy stability and policy certainty they then confuse their message with loony political ideology.
Last week Turnbull surprised us all by vowing that North Queensland will receive a new coal-fired power station under his government, if the LNP leader, Tim Nicholls, pulls off an election win. So obviously that’s all about politics, but he then committed the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) to building it. What he actually said was:
Obviously there is a substantial amount of funds in our northern Australia infrastructure fund, that is available for infrastructure. A power station ticks that box. It is definitely infrastructure.
He may well have added that, if we are prepared to lend money to a dodgy Indian coalminer on what are likely to be stranded assets, why not a coal-fired power station in the north of Queensland where we have an abundance of available solar energy? Why not indeed!
So, while many of us in North Queensland were convinced that we had the environment and weather to favour large scale solar power generation, we are now told the federal government is prepared to get behind a coal-fired power station with federal loan funding through the NAIF. Is it any wonder that entrepreneurs who have been backing renewables and even now are trying to assemble funding for large scale renewable projects are suddenly being told by their banks that without some clarity on energy policy from the government, the funds may not be made available?
Then we have Frydenberg arguing that as the costs of solar, wind and battery storage were falling, no further incentives may be needed to encourage investment in renewable energy, obviating the need for a Clean Energy Target as recommended by the government’s own energy review by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel. So does that mean that the NAIF won’t be allowed to support renewable energy projects?
Then we find that despite a highly sophisticated border control mechanism, Tony Abbott has escaped the reservation once again and turned up in London for another of his crazy speeches. This time to the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a climate-sceptic think tank. This time he comforted the planet by noting that:
… there is evidence that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide – which is a plant food after all – are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields. In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heatwaves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it’s accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial.
What Turnbull and Frydenberg must surely know is that no significant long-term energy projects are going to be committed to by the private sector until this government comes out with a national energy policy and that this constant confusion is inevitably going to lead to energy insecurity and power blackouts: perhaps that is the strategy – blame it all on Blackout Bill.