Is Australia smart enough to be the lucky country?

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Australia is lucky enough to have some of the best energy resources in the entire world. But despite our natural advantages power prices have more than doubled in a decade.

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Our land of sweeping plains is lucky enough to have some of the best energy resources in the entire world. 

We’ve got everything: Wind blowing a gale along the Roaring Forties of the southern coastline, sun and surf that make our beaches a tourist drawcard.

We have so much gas that we’re about to become the world’s biggest exporter, and more coal than we knew what to do with.

But despite these natural advantages power prices have more than doubled in a decade. As old generators have steadily closed over the past decade, we haven’t invested in enough new generation to replace it.

High school economics tells us that when supply falls, prices go up. Ultimately the highest price rises occurred in the states that saw very little new renewable investment – the coal and gas-rich eastern states.
We can absolutely have it all. Instead, successive Australian Governments have abandoned considered energy policy, opting for aggressive and bruising short-term politics.
Instead, we have sold so much of our bountiful gas offshore that there’s not enough for businesses to use back home.
And the gas that is available will cost you an arm, a leg and probably a kidney. It’s starting to feel like you would be mad to use it to generate electricity.

We have energy resources in abundance, but are we actually smart enough to be the lucky country?

Last month the Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel released his final energy security blueprint.
It contains 50 recommendations to modernise our energy system. If our politicians follow Dr Finkel’s pathway to prosperity, it ultimately means cheaper, cleaner and more reliable electricity for everyone.
Business can invest with certainty in new power assets, bringing in the new supply which will help rein in the spiralling power prices which are now well beyond a joke.

With the majority of Australians backing renewable energy, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten don’t need a weathervane to know which way the wind is blowing. At the moment it is at our backs. 

Investment confidence has finally returned to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and it is doing what it is supposed to do – delivering new renewables at the lowest possible cost.

More than three dozen large-scale wind, solar and bioenergy projects are now committed and under construction this year.
Thousands of jobs are being created, and close to $8 billion of investment is in the works. Dozens more projects are going through planning and financial approvals.
More importantly, the deals that have been done in the last 12 months and the analysis for Dr Finkel’s energy security blueprint have made it clear that electricity generated by wind and solar is now the lowest-cost power that can be built today.
Even paired with energy storage, these newer technologies cost less than new gas and well below what is possible from the cheapest possible new coal plants. The smart money is now in clean energy. 

But what comes next after a decade of the climate wars?

The business community and the energy sector are hanging their collective hopes on the possibility that our federal politicians can find some common ground in Dr Finkel’s proposed Clean Energy Target (CET).
 It is nobody’s favourite solution. But the chronic uncertainty caused by our inability to deal with climate change is driving power prices out of control.   

Many captains of industry are talking about the importance of certainty to rein them in again. 
We are lucky that the Finkel review has given us another chance at lasting bipartisanship and enduring energy policy. 

The Coalition party room has had the smarts to give in-principle support to 49 of the 50 energy market reforms proposed by Dr Alan Finkel.

Some of these are technical, but all are increasingly urgent to make our power grid more reliable and secure.
The CET is the last recommendation left, but it also happens to be the most important. If the Coalition refuses to back it, more price rises are inevitable. 

It’s time to be practical, not political. Back the Finkel recommendations in full, and give us the green light to solve this problem and take Australia into the future.

 We are ready to go. And perhaps, just perhaps – luck is finally on our side. Whether we are smart enough to take advantage of it remains to be seen.
Kane Thornton is Clean Energy Council Chief Executive 
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  1. solarguy 3 years ago

    Kane we are smart enough, but the coalalition?

    • MaxG 3 years ago

      Who is we? You and I? The forum participants? The readers of RenewEconomy? Never forget: these clowns are in power, because the majority ‘we’ voted for them!

      • Ian 3 years ago

        Max, as much as ‘we’ think renewables are the single most important item on the political agenda, I don’t think others do or even should consider renewables in such a way.

        • Michael Harvey 3 years ago

          We do have to factor price in the argument.

          We still need jobs remember.

  2. Brunel 3 years ago

    AUS needs to have an LNG export tax and give every poor voter a $900 annual cheque.

    • Nancyojordan 3 years ago

      my friend’s mom makes $85 an hour on the internet.. she has been without work for 2 months and the previous month her pay check was $18441 working at home for four hours per day… ➤check out ➤this

  3. George Darroch 3 years ago

    New Zealand has had 85+% renewable energy for the last 30 years, but lacks the intelligence to realise what an opportunity what a 100% renewable and low-carbon future represents.

    You can be very lucky, and squander it.

    • Kevan Daly 3 years ago

      I think the New Zealanders might have better memories than you George. Do you recall the drought of about 2002 when hydro from the south island dried up?

      • George Darroch 3 years ago

        And the wind stopped blowing that year too? (No, it didn’t). New Zealand diversified a little, but it did so in a really dumb way.

  4. DogzOwn 3 years ago

    Seems most people haven’t read Lucky Country. Real meaning is we were lucky to survive the incompetence of politicians of the day, even more true with current pretenders

  5. Ian 3 years ago

    It’s all about the commercialisation of Christmas. We have to sell all our natural resources so that we can buy our trinkets. We won’t or can’t make our own. Of course we have to sell all our gas and coal, uranium, lithium,gold,copper,titanium,aluminium, iron ore , university education, land, companies, utilities, we need to buy plastic goodies, clothes, Californian oranges, and grapes, refined petrol, cars. The only point about being lucky is that you don’t have to work or think for yourself. No effort in luck, why do so many billionaires give away their fortunes so that their children have to find their own way? Too much of the lucky country makes people soft. Why are migrants useful, they somehow have vigour to contribute to the economy more than native-borns.

  6. Michael Harvey 3 years ago

    I don’t understand,
    If wind and solar with storage are so much cheaper.

    Why do we need or have to wait for a RET or CET or carbon tax.

    Why can’t they just be built ?

    • Kay Schieren 3 years ago

      The pressure of corruption exercised by vested interests – on our voters, politicians, regulators, businesses. Simple: Fear breeds greed and cultivates ignorance. Our “leadership” is re-spelled “leadershit”. Courage to change is not cheap, but extremely satisfying when sought & exercised, but the idea is hard to sell to people who live on virtual outcomes generated by “isms”, etc., from media outlets ruled by vested interests. And around in circles it goes …

      • Michael Harvey 3 years ago

        If it was cheaper companies would be rushing to it.

        The waiting for a subsidise system shouldn’t be needed if they truely are cheaper.

        • Kay Schieren 3 years ago

          I am using stand alone solar – it is so much cheaper, there is no relationship between off grid and grid fossil fuel power that would explain the stupidity of people not using it other than vested financial interests and ignorance. My oldest panel is 40 years old and still produces most of the 40 Watt it was rated on in full sunlight. Modern panels are far more efficient. Battery storage at home is easy – and if we do not act quickly and effectively, we’ll have a low quality of life for a short while before the shit hits the fan in the next few generations.

  7. Scottish Scientist 3 years ago

    Even paired with energy storage, these newer technologies cost less

    Well you ought to know how much energy storage will be needed before you confidently estimate how much it will cost for 100% renewable energy.
    The recent hype over South Australia’s Telsa (100MW / 100 MWh) battery is misleading some to think that that “biggest ever” battery is “big enough”. Well no, actually, it is not, not even for the 315 MW Neoen wind farm it is paired with, (about 1575MWh energy storage needed for a 315 MW wind capacity)
    never mind South Australia’s 1,600 MW wind capacity. (about 8000MWh energy storage needed for a 1600 wind capacity)

    Wind, storage and back-up system designer
    Peak demand, wind and back-up power / energy storage capacity calculator

    For the specification and design of renewable energy electricity generation systems which successfully smooth intermittent wind generation to serve customer demand, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year.

    Adopting the recommendation derived from scientific computer modelling that the energy storage capacity be about 5 hours times the wind power capacity, the tables offer rows of previously successful modelled system configurations – row A, a configuration with no back-up power and rows B to F offering alternative ratios of wind power to back-up power. Columns consist of adjustable power and energy values in proportion to fixed multiplier factors.

    Scottish Scientist
    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland

    * Wind, storage and back-up system designer
    * Double Tidal Lagoon Baseload Scheme
    * Off-Shore Electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydrogen Power
    * World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?
    * Modelling of wind and pumped-storage power
    * Scotland Electricity Generation – my plan for 2020
    * South America – GREAT for Renewable Energy

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