Energy minister right on renewables and climate, wrong on gas

Energy minister right on renewables and climate, wrong on gas

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Josh Frydenberg’s apparent shift in thinking on renewables is welcome, but his call to end moratoriums on unconventional gas is profoundly out of step.

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The new energy and resources minister Josh Frydenberg has indicated a significant shift in energy policy for the Coalition. He correctly notes that renewables alone are not to blame for recent high electricity prices in South Australia.

Unlike the new federal minister for resources, Matthew Canavan, Mr Frydenberg accepts mainstream climate science and the fact that humanities actions are driving global warming. He says that we need a diversified energy mix, that the national Renewable Energy Target (RET) is ‘set in stone’ – which will stabilise the investment environment for renewables, and has ruled out further tax payer subsidies for fossil fuel generation.


These moves are all to be welcomed. And while Frydenberg is a long standing supporter of nuclear power, he acknowledges that our country should not move towards domestic use of uranium unless there is ‘bipartisan support’. It is difficult to imagine the majority of Australians would ever support a domestic nuclear reactor.

However, Frydenberg is profoundly out of step with the community in calling for an end to the current moratoriums on unconventional gas. In Victoria, 73 regional communities have declared themselves ‘gasfield free’.

While these declarations have no legal standing, they indicate deep seated opposition to fracking and drilling by communities. Most of the declared areas are in Coalition held seats and advocacy by the federal minister for state governments to lift the ban will damage the Coalition’s credibility in its core consistency.

Further, with a well managed national electricity grid and diversity of renewable sources plus enhanced use of storage technologies (including existing hydro dams) gas is not needed as back up for wind and solar. The argument that gas is a bridging and back-up fuel is out dated. We now have 21st century renewable technology which can meet our electricity needs.

Frydenberg says that the decline in the use of coal is ‘not a bad thing’. To be consistent with mainstream climate science, it is clear we must keep the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous global warming and have a hope of keeping overall warming under 2oC. Further mining and export of any coal is unjustifiable in the light of known climate science.”

At the domestic level, the hard work in the next term of government will be to start the orderly closure of existing coal fired power stations.  Frydenberg notes that around the world emissions intensive power stations are already closing down. His legacy as minister should be that he was the one who had the foresight and leadership to begin the transition here in Australia.

It is clear that we are witnessing an attempt by many in the conservative media and fossil fuel sector to influence the new minister and damage the reputation of renewable energy.

The fossil fuel sector’s attack on renewables has muddied the waters of energy policy” said Leigh Ewbank, FoE’s renewable energy campaigner.

Communities stand ready to defend renewables and want state and federal energy ministers to stand up against bullying from fossil fuel interests.

State and federal ministers can strengthen the NEM by adopting a plan to rollout renewable energy and battery storage at the upcoming COAG energy council meeting.

The meeting is an opportunity for the Turnbull government to endorse state initiatives such as the ACT and Victoria’s competitive renewable energy auctions.

Cam Walker is cCampaigns co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth

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  1. neroden 4 years ago

    If Australia wants to use natgas as a “bridge fuel”, the logical thing to to is to ban exports. You’re producing plenty of gas already, but it’s being shipped off into the international markets. This should glut out the gas market enough to stop drilling… and it’ll cause international markets to switch away from gas, as they should.

    • Brunel 4 years ago

      Everyone should be cutting down natgas use. Especially for home heating.

      Hopefully cheap batteries will allow a few inefficient peaking gas power stations to be killed.

  2. Tim Forcey 4 years ago

    Here is an article describing research into the use of gas in eastern Australia. (Never mind the title…)

    • Brunel 4 years ago

      I just wonder if air cons will be more efficient in the future. Or is the Daiking Uluru Sahara as efficient as they get.

      • Tim Forcey 4 years ago

        Yes the Daikin Ururu Sarara is top of the efficiency line according to I suppose maximum theoretical efficiency is yet to be reached. There will always be a cost-of-equipment vs operating-efficiency tradeoff. Here is a Facebook group (“My Efficient Electric Home”) where we ponder these things:

  3. Cooma Doug 4 years ago

    The use of gas is only a transitional idea and a very expensive idea.
    Load side technology using batteries and efficiency/smart use switching in milli second response time frames is not only eliminating the burning of gas but eliminates the need for billions of dollars in infrastructure.
    When you look closely at the concepts with an understanding of system stability it is a no brainer.
    We can proceed with this dumb down half hearted process b u t the costs are enormous.

  4. Malcolm M 4 years ago

    The State Government bans on unconventional gas in Victoria and New South Wales are mainly because the deposits are in populated areas, but these deposits are likely to be small and expensive to produce. In SW Vic, potential coal-seam gas is based on a coal seam that is 1 m thick. Compare that to the Cooper Basin, where Strike Energy is developing a coal-seam gas deposit 100-150 m thick. Vertical wells in the Cooper Basin are producing much more than horizontal wells in the US, to the amazement of US gas producers. The gas industry no doubt already knows that the Cooper is the place to be, while the deposits in populated areas are unlikely to be economic.

  5. Brunel 4 years ago

    Politics is opaque and hard to understand. Was Josh paid to say “coal is a cheap source of electrons” ie corruption. Or did he actually believe that.

    I think the 4 Corners episode indicated that Abbott was paid to say “If a carbon tax is put in, these bricks will be 10% more costly”. A whopping 10% huh? So scary!

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