Shorten attacks Coalition for energy "vandalism", affirms 50% target

Shorten attacks Coalition for energy “vandalism”, affirms 50% target

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has accused the Coalition government of policy vandalism on energy, and committed to an emissions intensity scheme that he insists will deliver Labor’s target of 50 per cent renewables in the country’s electricity system by 2030.

In a landmark speech at the Bloomberg headquarters in Sydney on Thursday, Shorten said Australia should be the “energy capital of Asia”, echoing former government advisor Ross Garnaut’s pitch that the country should become a “renewable energy powerhouse.”


Shorten – in a hastily arranged speech designed to re-frame the energy debate and regain the initiative after losing focus and being outmanoeuvred in the past week – outlined why Australia should be focusing on wind, solar and storage technologies rather than a misnomer like “clean coal.”

Labor, it seems, is realising that – with the strong support of public opinion – its commitment to renewable energy should be a vote winner, and the means to deliver cleaner, cheaper and more reliable power.

That approach is being underpinned by the falling cost of solar, in particular, the emergence of battery storage, reports from the CSIRO and others that underpin the cost benefits of renewable energy, and the repeated failure of fossil fuel generation in critical events such as storms and heatwaves.

And, Labor hopes, its commitment to renewables will draw a clear line of difference between it and the Coalition, which Shorten said was “betting the bank on dirty, unaffordable technology.”

“Gambling on our energy future with clean coal is like punting on last year’s grand final today and picking the losing team,” Shorten said of Coalition’s commitment to building new coal-fired power stations.

 “In the renewable jobs and investment race – Australia has got a dream barrier draw. We are the world’s sunniest continent, one of the windiest places on earth and our universities, research centres and firms keep producing leaders in the field.”

Shorten was savage on the Coalition’s policy position, its support of “clean coal”, its opportunism on blackouts, its “policy vandalism” and the apparent complete about-face by Malcolm Turnbull on climate and clean energy policies.

He insisted the 50 per cent renewables target – which he admitted had been variously described as a “goal, target”, “objective” or “aspiration” – is “what we want Australia to achieve” and “2030 is when we want to get there.”

He also insisted that the $48 billion capital cost estimate by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to reach that figure was not a cost, but an “investment” that would create new industries and jobs.

It is understood that the speech was arranged following confusion over Labor’s policy last week, after a series of ill-fated interviews, and an internal decision to distinguish its policies from the Coalition by focusing on the technology and economics, as well as the climate issue.

This is what Shorten did well in his speech, pointing to the tumbling of more than 400 climate records, the need to reach the Paris climate targets, the lack of investment because of policy uncertainty, the benefits of investing in wind and solar, and the need to amend energy market rules to ensure renewables can be integrated.

“We didn’t need the blackouts to know that policies need to be changed,” he said.

The big question, however, is how a Labor government would achieve its 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, given that it is relying on an emissions intensity scheme as its primary policy mechanism – and Shorten made clear that the target would not be legislated.

That means the effective end of the renewable energy target mechanism in 2020, and the reliance on an EIS and possibly other mechanisms, such as state-based targets or reverse auctions.

Modelling done on behalf of the Australian Energy Markets Commission (by Frontier Economics) and the Climate Change Authority (Jacobs) indicates an EIS would deliver little in the way of new renewables by 2030, and maybe around 30 per cent at best.

Shorten mentioned the need to use ARENA and the CEFC to continue investment in new technologies, and to change the focus of the National Energy Market 543379900rules (at least so it takes environment and climate into account).

But the discussion among many of the energy experts immediately after the speech at Bloomberg was focused on what more would be needed in the way of policies.

These discussions focused on whether a change of market rules would be enough; would an auctions scheme be needed, and what would become of state-based targets – and whether these would provide the investment drive to reach that target.

Shorten admitted in his speech that “an EIS will inevitably make gas a more attractive investment.” Indeed, in the Frontier and Jacobs modelling, gas takes a dominant share of new investment. But the question must also be where that gas would come from, and what it would mean for coal seam gas policies.

Shorten did not take questions at the event, although RenewEconomy did manage to grab him for one question as he headed to the escalator: Was he convinced, we asked him, that an EIS was enough to deliver that target, given the available modelling didn’t show it.

“We are not saying everything should be an EIS. Obviously there are other developments we can advocate … we are confident that the modelling shows that we are on the right track.”

That, most experts recognise, is a work in progress, and Labor admits that it will need to work more on the design of an EIS to ensure it achieves the right long-term outcomes.

But the experts described the overall thrust of the speech as overwhelmingly positive, given that it had outlined the environmental, economic and investment benefits of renewable energy.

On the Coalition, Shorten accused the party, and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in particular, of choosing “vandalism over pragmatism” and committing only to scare campaigns.

“How is it that a man who used to pride himself on being the renaissance man of climate change, is now out there demonising renewables and talking-up coal?” Shorten said.

“The Prime Minister personally appreciates the advantage of renewable energy, which is why it’s so disappointing to watch him attacking the renewable energy industry and hurting jobs.

“This frightens away investors and it does nothing to guarantee Australians can keep the lights on – not just tomorrow, but ten years’ from now.”

The full text of the speech is available here. It’s worth a read.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  1. George Darroch 4 years ago

    Glad to see such strong leadership from Shorten and Labor.

    The challenge will be in the implementation, but a bold rhetorical commitment gets you started.

    • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

      you are easily hoodwinked … ask Shorten / Wong about Santos financial sponsorship

      • DevMac 4 years ago

        Elaborate, provide reference material, or go away.

        • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

          do some research you lazy dolt …

          • Ken Dyer 4 years ago

            Daniel, your comment is absolutely irrelevant, and unhelpful. It reflects the nasty political schtick that the COALition have been peddling for years . Their hare brained, idiotic actions and lies about coal meant that someone had to stand up for renewable energy. Labor’s Bill Shorten did.

            The cost of using fossil fuels is rising daily, along with the levels of carbon in the atmosphere. The costs of solar and wind and battery technologies to capture the power of the Sun are decreasing exponentially as trillions of dollars are spent on research and development of these technologies. Right now, the cost for wind energy is nearly half that of coal according to Lazard’s LCOE (look it up), the industry standard for electricity cost comparisons.

            But do not take my word for it. An increasing number of experts and major companies are putting their money into clean renewables instead of filthy coal. They know where the energy future lies in Australia and the World regardless of the non-existent energy and climate policies of the current Federal Government. Renewable energy creates jobs. Renewable energy does not pollute. Renewable energy grows the economy.
            Renewable energy is clean. Renewable energy is the future.

          • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

            look Ken, me telling someone to do their own research is hardly ‘irrelevant’ .. and you’re clearly a Labor supporter … and many ‘hare-brained’ policies of LNP Shorten has voted for … while the cost of solar and wind drop, batteries (vis a vis value for money) are not ‘decreasing exponentially’ … you sound like one of the ‘beyond zero emissions’ groupies .. renewable energy Does pollute …

            I loath LNP and Labor equally, I am in the solar industry and I do have an idea about solar … Fact: renewable energy also has a limited future

          • Ken Dyer 4 years ago

            Well Daniel, apart from you not picking my political preferences, (neither LNP or ALP or the Ginger Whinger for that matter), I would really like to know, as many others on this forum, how you know that renewable energy has a limited future.
            The last time I looked we have a giant nuclear reactor in the sky, and the improving technology to harness its energy as long as it continues to shine. That’s all I know.

          • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

            you do realize that all solar and wind components are extracted in raw form, transported to a manufacturing point, and manufactured in highly intensive fossil fuel energy and then transported again and again until installation … and there’s more … do some extrapolative thinking … renewable energy has limited future

          • Pedro 4 years ago

            Sorry Daniel, I think your logic is flawed. Every single thing we consume is extracted and transported and by your logic every industry has a limited future.

          • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

            well spotted Pedro, and as the landfill, contaminated land, water and air swamp civilization, as plastic outnumbers fish in the oceans of the world and Fukushima radioactive waters wash on the shores of the USA … would you not agree that there is a limited future? and if not, you’re not too clever are you!

          • Pedro 4 years ago

            Would have to agree with you that everything has a time or resource limit. How about we talk about time scales, are you thinking about 10 years, 100 or 1000 years. As long as our civilization lasts it will require energy better off to get it from the least polluting technology and with the least resources used. At this stage solar and wind are the most benign when compared to other alternatives.

          • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

            I’m thinking 10 years or less … I predicted that we would see at least 50% of the world’s human population dead or dying of starvation … one just has to look at the massive refugee population that was ‘about 50 million people in 2012’ that is growing all the time, just because you don’t see it in the news, doesn’t mean it’s not happening … it’s basic resources like water and food and then fuel to cook foods … then you look at the rare earth materials that are consumed for technology and extrapolate the ERoEI and ROI negatives and add the toxicity to the environments, where nothing can grow … and transporting people in to work in inhospitable places …think Easter Island and its canary in the mine message about the finiteness of resources

          • Pedro 4 years ago

            RE has a limited future how so?

          • DevMac 4 years ago

            Have a nice life.
            /ignore Daniel Boon.

    • Tom 4 years ago

      The delay to this speech was Shorten waiting for his focus groups to report to him on public opinion.

      Better to hear this than the alternative though.

  2. David 4 years ago

    Hi Giles, really good article on Labour’s climate chage position . One small factual correction: Jacobs modelling for the CCA projected that the EI scheme would deliver between 41% (current emissions target) and 52% (stonger emissions target) by 2030. The combination of the EI scheme and the state’s renewable energy schemes could deliver in a 50% penetration of renewables by 2030 (or get close).

  3. Daniel Boon 4 years ago

    shorten has capitulated to LNP, he is lying

    • Cooma Doug 4 years ago

      It doesnt matter who is lying.
      Watch this

      • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

        of course it matters … the fact that politicians have been allowed to get away with lying for 40+ years IS what Matters

      • Russell Yann 4 years ago

        Cooma Doug, Seba’s speech is a good one. However in the context of the Australian situation Shorten is on to something here. What is a concern is if the cost of power continues to rise even when the wholesale energy production is falling. The Labor party will take significant heat when this happens. The only way to make sure that the pricing to the consumer is reduced is to go after the sacred cows in the electricity market. The ACCC needs a much larger stick, transmission build policy needs to be overhauled (no gold-plating) and pricing should be reduced to shorter increments so that battery technology can really take the gas plants to task.

        • Cooma Doug 4 years ago

          The market rule changes
          are inevitable. There are so many advantages in technology today that is blocked by the rules.
          When the wholesale price fluctuates due to behaviours on the load side, the problem is over.

          Today, we respond to HV side problems and spend all effort to push energy down the throats of the consumer without knowing if the energy is needed or not.

          Move the wholesale market to the load side and the question of need will be applied in the response. Load shifting and storage will replace what we now call peaking plant.

          Also the HV side can then function on a flat profile 24/7. This would enable hydro for example to run at top efficiency and achieve top water utilization. This will also eliminate the voltage control problems on the HV side.

    • Brian Tehan 4 years ago

      Troll somewhere else.

      • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

        Brian, it is indeed unfortunate you are not close by, to call me a troll to my face … people having a different – and in my case – more enlightened opinion, doesn’t make them a troll, rather, closed minded anal-floss dolts like you are trolls, you’d be a Pauline One Notion supporter

        • DevMac 4 years ago

          Are you a Police Negotiator?

  4. DevMac 4 years ago

    About _______ time!

  5. Doug Evans 4 years ago

    Labor has a history of talking the talk on climate and ‘renewables’ but failing to deliver when the time for that arrives. Still what Shorten is laying out sounds a heap better than the nonsense we have been fobbed of with in the last few years. We must wait and hope.

    • Dean Rizzetti 4 years ago

      This seems pretty unfair – I’d say a carbon price, record investment in renewables, ambitious state-based policies and a reversal of Australia’s position in international climate negotiations are some pretty significant ticks in the delivery column. It might not always run to the timeline we want or need, but I think Labor’s actually done a lot more than just talk.

      • Doug Evans 4 years ago

        @Dean Rizetti See comments by Mark Diesendorf and Raymond above. I was thinking particularly of Victorian State Labor pre-election promises on support for renewables that were followed by post election non delivery. However I am also mindful that Federal Labor’s biggest success in this space – the Gillard government’s Clean Energy package which included their carbon tax was only achieved courtesy of a ‘hung’ Parliament and some remarkably tenacious cross benchers (Bandt, Windsor and Oakeshott). Gillard you will remember went to that election promising no serious action on climate change. She was forced to change course by the dynamics of the Parliament she was faced with. The really useful bits of this legislation – Clean Energy Finance Corporation, ARENA etc – were extracted from an extremely unwilling Labor Government by the cross benchers as necessary condition for their support of the package given the Government’s insistence on a carbon price set too low to drive meaningful change (from memory $19/tonne). Perhaps now you understand my scepticism.

        • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

          well said Doug …

      • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

        the financial dependence on the likes of Santos suggest Labor is just another sluttish political party like the LNP

    • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

      but back to your correct observation, Labor talking the talk but not delivering

  6. Keith 4 years ago

    Why is it that this debate seems to be conflating Labor’s 50% target for 2030 with an LNP target of 23% that they might achieve by 2020. Labor has the same 23% target for 2020.

    The LNP has no plan at all for the period beyond 2020, which is the period that Shorten is discussing.

    Why is the press so silent on this obvious point?

    • Ken Dyer 4 years ago

      Keith, are you sure the LNP even has a plan. If Morrison’s idiotic antics are anything to go by, they dont.

      • Keith 4 years ago

        Hi Ken,

        Of course they don’t have a plan, and that should be the central issue in the current debate, not how much Labor is going to have to pay to get to 50% (which the States will do for him anyway).

        The LNP is the government. It acknowledges that certainty is needed for investment, then makes sure that there is none to try to stop investment. This of course was, and continues to be, Tony Abbott’s policy. What has happened to Malcolm Turnbull?

  7. Peter G 4 years ago

    At last! all of this clean coal crap was starting to get me down.

    Thanks for the article Giles, should get a good laugh from the whatever bile Murdoch turns out tomorrow…

    • Tom 4 years ago

      I think “clean coal” is a bit like “hydrogen fuel cell cars”. It will never happen, everyone knows it will never happen, but vested interests promote it to delay other things from happening.

      • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

        hydrogen fuel cells cars have happened, BMW had a small fleet driving around Germany in the 80’s …when the cost of oil – a barrel – hits $150 again, it will get more traction

        • Tom 4 years ago

          Clean coal has happened too – doesn’t mean it will ever “happen”. Just more confabulating “evidence” to delay other things.

          Regarding hydrogen fuel cell cars – my (somewhat rhetorical) questions are: 1) How much do they cost? 2) How much has their price come down with advances in technology and economies of scale? and 3) How many were sold to private buyers?

          I’m sure the answers are “heaps”, “not much”, and “enough for a butcher to count on their fingers”.

          It’ll never happen. And neither will “clean coal”.

          • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

            Tom, I concur with your observation of abstract answers, but hydrogen cars are out and about; no they are no mass produced priced (as electric cars first weren’t either) and BMW had electric cars in the 70’s and have some fine examples now.

  8. Hayden 4 years ago

    Slightly off topic, but did you notice this. (Fizza has been promoting CCS)

    Big price-tag with Texas CCS plant: While the coal industry has been promoting Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects as cheaper than renewables, NRG Energy’s recently commissioned Petra Nova plant in Texas – retrofitted to capture 40 per cent of the flue gas from a 610 MW plant – cost a staggering A$1.4 billion to complete.

    (Ramanan Krishnamoorti from the University of Houston doubts the Petra Nova project has much applicability for other coal plants, especially given the falling cost of wind and solar.

    (Australian Financial Review [paywall], Forbes)

    • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

      In addition, its alleged that half of the energy produced by the plant is consumed in the process of carbon capture. Sort of like a dog chasing its tail. So generator designers face the prospect of going over budget, losing half of their energy output to capture, and release 60% of the emissions that clean technologies never produce, and hope they’ll compete with renewables.It makes you wonder just what a politician would do, to allow rapacious continuation of a domestic thermal coal industry, to protect a few existing jobs, and deny the creation of thousands of clean ones.

      • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

        anything for money

      • Ian 4 years ago

        That is so awesome : 1/2 the energy produced to capture the flue gasses. So, let’s see. To produce 1GWH of exportable energy 2GWH worth of coal must be burnt. 1GWH worth of gasses is released into the atmosphere and 1GWH worth is pumped underground.. Back where they started. That’s hilarious.

  9. Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

    He’s right 9/10ths of the money is not a cost, it’s actually from private investment and enables cheaper power, AND clean energy jobs and gradual input cost reductions and all that other good economic stuff.

    And if the other 1/10th is from the CEFC, then that will be returned to the taxpayer eventually, because those guys are very good on clean new technology (i.e. non-coal) investment.

  10. Tim Buckley 4 years ago

    About time for Shorten to wedge Turnbull on this key policy area – Turnbull is pandering to the Tea Party, and losing face and votes daily as a result.

    • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

      Shorten’s windsock fence sitting approach to life is why he is contounally ‘wedged’ … it’s a wonder he has kids

  11. Mark Diesendorf 4 years ago

    By reporting that Shorten “affirms 50% target”, you are helping him to dress up empty rhetoric with substance. As you clearly understand, Shorten the politician is talking about an aspirational 50% renewable energy goal for 2030 for which he has no mechanism for achieving. His speech says that “50 per cent of renewables by 2030 is not an extension of the existing RET scheme.” So, under Labor the RET will not be extended to 2030 and increased in value. Furthermore, he says explicitly that “Gas produces roughly half the pollution generated by burning coal – so an EIS will inevitably make it a more attractive investment.” In other words, under Labor the baseline of the EIS will be set to pay credits to gas, leaving little room for RE between 2020 and 2030. This is a tactic for delaying renewable energy and pandering to the gas industry. Shorten also repeats the incorrect myth that we need baseload power stations thus: “the obvious alternative to coal as a baseload power source, is gas”. Vigorous campaigning is needed to push Labor to either extend and expand the RET or to support an EIS that penalises gas instead of rewarding it.

    • Raymond 4 years ago

      Shorten is a populist who talks the talk but only so long as he thinks that there are more votes in it than the alternative. His roots are in the union movement and he would switch to support for “clean coal” if he needs to in order to shore up his political base

      • DevMac 4 years ago

        So, you’re saying he’s a politician?

        “he would switch to support for “clean coal” if he needs to in order to shore up his political base”

        You mean just like Malcolm already did?

        • Raymond 4 years ago

          Yep totally – two sides of the same coin….

          • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

            exactly … most sheeple in Australia (DevMac is a prime example) don’t understand that LNP and Labor are the left and right wings of the same corporate bird

          • Ian 4 years ago

            Well said. Labor plus me-too labor = coalition plus me-too coalition. Both sides try buy votes and both window-dress their policies to suit their voter base. Don’t you love Shorten’s renewables guesstimate. It’s a tentative punt on what he reckons will happen anyway. At least it puts the other side on their back foot, and may save us from silly new coal investments.

      • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

        Raymond, as a ‘populist’, he’s an abject failure if Malcolm Turnbull still is the preferred leader of the two … he is a slow motion wind-sock … an exemplar of fence-sitting

    • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

      well said Mark

    • Don McMillan 4 years ago

      Agree but please do not rely on the natural gas the industry as it has been destroyed.

  12. trackdaze 4 years ago

    I love the irony that had the coalition not scrapped the carbon tax it would have provided a mechanism and the funds to support carbon storage or a supercagifragilistic expensivealidoshish ultra coal fired powerplant.

    • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

      irony is good when its karma for the perpetrator, not for bystanders who will suffer considerably

      • trackdaze 4 years ago

        Bystanders are best served by ensuring their “energy security ” and reduced cost by making and storing their own electricity.

        The irony will really kick in soon as the US Institutes a carbon tax and tariff to those below the reduced emissions curve. At that point the minerals council can go about applying a lacquer to all coal deposits not just the lump on scott morissons desk.

        • Daniel Boon 4 years ago

          storage on energy does not reduce energy costs … energy efficiency is the only solution … energy capped to a per person basis … also, making all consumers pay equally

          • trackdaze 4 years ago

            It does if you Store it when its cheap and plentiful.

            Next to zero marginal cost renewables tough to beat. More wind, more solar = cheaper.

  13. david H 4 years ago

    AEMO, who’s job it is to make sure that the lights stay on 24/7 year in year out, released their National Transmission Network Development Plan (NTNDP) in December 2016 and it is well worth reading.
    They project that coal generation will reduce from 74% of NEM generation in 2016–17 to 24% in 2035–36 and renewables will be providing 50% of the energy generated
    i.e close to Shorten’s aspiration. Furthermore, they actually have a plan as to what has to happen with the grid to achieve this and what it will likely cost. All any government has to do is facilitate the transition.
    You can download it here:

    • Ian 4 years ago

      Thank you, you have given substance to the idea that Shorten is just taking someone else’s estimate of what will happen with renewables percentages in 2030 and made it his ‘policy’.I suppose his obedience is better that the Coalition’s obstinance.

Comments are closed.

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.