As part of our end-of-year offerings, and with a view to 2018, we thought we’d invite the energy spokesmen for the three main parties to have their say on the New Year.
We asked each of them “what looks exciting in energy in 2018. Or not …. And is it going to be good, bad or indifferent on new technologies, policy etc.”
We asked them to limit their comments to 250 words. Not everyone kept to their limit. This is what they sent back:
Josh Frydenberg: Federal energy and environment minister
Building on the Finkel Review we have seen the development of the National Energy Guarantee – a significant breakthrough that combines reliability and emissions reduction into a single mechanism.
It represents the best advice from the experts from the Energy Security Board to properly integrate climate and energy policy for the first time, resulting in a more affordable and reliable energy system as we transition to a lower emissions future.
It has received wide support from stakeholders, with the BCA saying that “the government’s plan… is the most practical, workable thing we’ve seen in business for quite some time;” and Bloomberg New Energy Finance saying “the concept is innovative and elegant.”
Large energy users like BlueScope and BHP, energy companies like AGL, Energy Australia and Origin, and groups like the National Farmers Federation, have also voiced their support for the Guarantee.
In a positive development the COAG Energy Council has agreed to do further work on the National Energy Guarantee into next year, with both Coalition and Labor governments coming together.
In terms of renewable investment, around 50 projects are either under construction or have been completed this year representing $9.3 billion of investment and more than 4,670MW of large-scale renewable capacity.
In 2018 ARENA and the CEFC will continue to invest in a significant range of innovative projects like the recent $29 million R&D round and this summer’s demand response trial while the government will progress Snowy 2.0.
2018 is a crucial year for climate change and energy after a tumultuous 2017.
The 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET) is winding down and, while it will support new renewable investment for the next year, Australia desperately needs a new pro-renewables energy policy to support continued investment in new generation post 2020.
After rejecting an EIS in late 2016, the government tasked Chief Scientist Alan Finkel to design a new energy policy through the Finkel Review.
After working on The Finkel review throughout the first half of 2017 on detailed design, the critical recommendation of the panel was to adopt a Clean Energy Target (CET). But this policy was ultimately rejected by the Turnbull government, for no reason other than it was perceived as too pro-renewables by the Coalition party room.
In place of the CET, the government have proposed an under-developed National Energy Guarantee (NEG) policy, with no consultation with industry or states which will need to implement any NEG.
While the rushed, under-developed and secret development of the NEG raises significant issues, these are eclipsed by what we know the government wants the NEG to deliver.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) have concluded the government’s NEG will “decimate” large scale renewable investment, with only 1.5GW in new renewable generation to 2030.
This represents a fall of 95 per cent in annual large-scale renewable investment, compared to what Australia is seeing in the lead up to the end of the 2020 RET.
2017 was also meant to be the year the government finally presents a new climate change policy through their Climate Change Review; capable of delivering on 2030 emission reduction targets.
In the shadow of a Cabinet reshuffle, the mid-year budget review, and while Australians are busy doing their last-minute Christmas shopping, (Frydenberg) has snuck out the 2017 report on Australia’s carbon pollution levels. When you look at those numbers you really do start to understand why he would sneak them out, because they are a shocking set of numbers.
The report from the government confirms that Australia will not meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the UN protocol on climate change. Australia committed to cut its carbon pollution levels under that protocol by 5 per cent between 2000 and 2020.
This report confirms that by 2020 our carbon pollution levels will not have reduced at all against 2000 levels. Indeed, if you excluded accounting changes in forestry and land-use our pollution levels would be much worse than they were in 2000.
The long-awaited Climate Change Review contemplates that if anything, the Turnbull government wants to make it easier for bigger polluters to start to increase their pollution levels, not to get them down.
In 2018, Australia should see the announcement and implementation of sensible climate change and energy policy; to drive deep cuts in pollution across the whole economy, and to support the transition of the electricity sector.
Unfortunately, it looks likely we’ll see more of the same chaos in 2018 as we became used to through 2017.
Rather than credible policy that will cut pollution, we’re more likely to see blaming rather than supporting renewables, no credible climate change policy, no vehicle emission standards, no national energy efficiency policy, no policy to help the transition in the electricity sector and no fall in carbon pollution.
Under the Turnbull government, when it comes to tackling climate change as well as our energy crisis in 2018, Australia should be prepared for more of the disappointments they became used to in 2017.
The debate over a future for coal is largely over and 2018 will be the year of energy storage and the future of the grid, as utility-scale batteries show the way, the economics for household storage starts to stack up and engineering-driven planning returns.
Regardless of where the government’s NEG lands, the real debate will be about where to put the new generation and how to connect it into the grid as the avalanche of new renewable projects continue. This will mean renewable energy zones and a big focus on the transmission and interconnection required.
The future for producing and exporting solar fuels will become more clear as the potential for hydrogen exports or direct transmission of renewables is really taken up by governments and business.
As transport emissions continue to grow, the government will have to stop sitting on its hands and move on emission standards and incentives for electric vehicles, or risk continuing to fall behind the rest of the world.
Climate change will also return to the public debate with a vengeance as extreme weather hits and the reality of the government’s policy vacuum is highlighted. The national security implications of climate change will be a feature of the debate and the need for stronger and faster action to safeguard our future.
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.