Industry peaks and troughs

Sunny with a few clouds on the horizon

It’s been a nail-biting month for those with a stake in renewables but the return of Queensland’s pro-renewables Labor party led by Annastacia Palaszczuk – which looks highly likely – provides the certainty the sector needs. Prior to the election the state Premier reinforced support with the release of Powering Queensland’s Future Plan underpinned by the commitment to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and a 400 MW renewable energy and storage auction.

For its part the state’s conservative coalition signalled its intent, if elected, to pull all incentives for renewables and instead funnel funds into a new coal generator in north Queensland and support the Adani Carmichael coal mine.

Authorised by John Grimes the Smart Energy Council campaigned strongly in the build up to the Queensland election through Facebook, digital, newspaper and radio ads, urging voters to put the Liberal National Party last due to its anti-renewables approach.

The message read: “[The choice is] A new polluting coal-fired power station or a solar thermal plant providing 24-hour solar power; no new large-scale renewables and massive job losses or 1,000 megawatts of new large-scale renewable projects in regional Queensland; and a National Energy Guarantee that delivers the longest solar eclipse in history or sensible national energy policy.”

The advertisements were seen and heard by hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders, with a particular focus on six key marginal seats – and could sway the course of history.

A reinstated Labor Government would establish a new publicly owned CleanCo with a mandate to deliver 1000 MW of renewable energy with a focus on flexible dispatchable generation and deliver $97 million for solar schools and $50 million down payment for a new solar thermal power plant.

The solar state, as Energy Minister Mark Bailey puts it, has provided the confidence for an investment pipeline estimated at $20 billion. The level of interest and investment in North Queensland is unprecedented yet for all the clean energy progress – and potential emission reductions – there’s a dark cloud in the shape of the Adani coalmine which has the support of the federal government.

The mine has captured the attention of Christiana Figueres who recently stated Adani is fundamentally not in Australia’s interests and “You really do have to see that we are at the Kodak moment for coal”.

The woman who helped influence the world’s global climate change agreement at the Paris Accord said “We are already seeing the decline of coal, we are seeing more and more countries phasing out of coal … but that does not include Australia or India or China.

“The Carmichael coal mine, if it goes ahead, would frankly blow completely out of the water any emissions reductions that Australia has committed to,” Figueres told the media.

Other negative forces at work include the National Energy Guarantee which the Smart Energy Council describes as “A guarantee to lock in coal, lock out competition, raise prices and hand control to the big power companies.

“The effects on solar would be devastating. It would lead to the longest solar eclipse in history,” John Grimes stated.

The Smart Energy Council urged the meeting of Energy Ministers from across Australia to reject the National Energy Guarantee outright, declaring “It would deliver no new large-scale solar between 2020 and 2030 and would slash residential and commercial solar uptake by around 70 per cent.”

The Climate Council commissioned Ernst and Young to research the proposed National Energy Guarantee which revealed it would result in 8 per cent lower employment or 6,600 fewer energy jobs in 2030 than business as usual and that renewable energy investment could come to a standstill.

“The Government’s energy scheme could lead to renewable energy investment and jobs grinding to a halt, while it should be doing the exact opposite,” says chief executive Amanda Mackenzie.

“That means fewer jobs in wind and large-scale solar PV construction and operation. This plan is actually worse than doing nothing.”

The modelling which also looked at a 50 per cent renewable energy scenario by 2030 found the Government’s initiative would result in 32 per cent less employment. That’s 20,000 fewer jobs in large-scale wind and solar PV, and rooftop PV in 2030.

“Confusing jargon, abstract policy details, and a lack of information, has provided false appearances about the benefits of this energy policy. However, we’ve exposed this policy for what it is – backsliding.”

The Climate Council intends to commission more research to shed the light on “dodgy climate and energy policies”.

Chair of the Energy Security Board that hastily drew up the NEG – the blueprint for Australia’s energy market – is AEMC Chairman John Pierce who recently announced that the 30-minute settlement period for the electricity spot price will transition to five minutes.

The move favours battery technology that responds quickly to demand, however it’s a long wait till 2021 when the new rule kicks in.

Still on the matter of speed, South Australia today (December 1) proudly becomes home to the world’s biggest battery. No procrastination, just delivery on a promise made a few short months ago.