Coalition launches its Australian election energy pitch

THE Liberal National Party Coalition is seeking to improve its environmental credentials as the 2016 Australian election campaign rolls on, saying it has asked the CSIRO to develop a Low Emissions Technology Roadmap.

Haydn Black

However, the roadmap comes at a time when the government’s environmental centrepiece, the Direct Action program, has been described as useless.

On Friday Resources Minister Frydenberg told the Energy Networks 2016 Energy in Transition Conference in Adelaide that “few policy areas will attract more attention during the next seven weeks than energy”

He said eight of Australia’s 12 dirtiest power stations have been retired, and that by 2022 20% of Australia’s coal fired power stations are scheduled to close, with coal already off the menu in South Australia.

“Renewable energy now makes up 100% of all major investment in grid-connected electricity generation. There are already a total of 482 large-scale renewable power stations accredited under the Renewable Energy Target,” he said.

“As you know, this will double between now and 2020, as we meet our RET and deliver at least 23% of Australia’s energy from renewable sources.”

Yet he said Australia, being an island nation, faced different set of challenges when managing the transition compared to other countries, which was by the CSIRO would develop a suitable Low Emissions Technology Roadmap that would inform the work of the recently announced $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund.

He took a short at Labor’s policy for carbon pricing would “dislocate energy markets and unnecessarily drive up the cost of electricity”

He said the ALP’s 50% renewable energy target could cost at least $48 billion in generation investment.

“The question has to be asked – who is going to pay for this? Just as they did under the carbon tax, in the end it will be consumers who have to foot the bill,” he said.

The Coalition’s CSIRO plan would highlight areas of potential growth in Australia’s clean technology sector, map the development of new emissions reduction technologies, and identify opportunities to be part of future global energy supply chains, he said.

Science Minister Christopher Pyne said the roadmap would identify ways to boost research, development and commercialisation of new and emerging low emissions technologies.

“The roadmap will build on the Government’s significant investments in low emissions science and technology,” Pyne said.

“It will identify how new and emerging technologies will help reduce emissions domestically and ensure we can benefit from the growing international demand for these technologies.

“For example, by 2018 Australian solar technology will be embedded in over 60% of the world’s PV panels. This roadmap will identify other areas where we can drive global change through Australian innovation.

“In developing the roadmap the CSIRO will consult with industry stakeholders and other experts to better understand how we can leverage our comparative advantages and collaborate with overseas partners to achieve a large-scale technology transformation.”

Frydenberg said the roadmap would provide information on new technologies to reduce emissions from the energy and transport sectors and how these technologies could be deployed in Australia.

“The Coalition is committed to a technology-neutral approach to energy policy. This roadmap will further this commitment by supporting the development of innovative and low emissions technologies,” Frydenberg said.

“Not only will this initiative identify technologies that could create new and innovative products for consumers, it will also help identify opportunities for Australian businesses to be involved in the global energy supply chain, with the potential of creating new industries that create new jobs and growth in Australia.”

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said Australia was well on the way to transitioning to a low emissions economy, having per capita emissions and overall emissions by almost one-third by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

“The roadmap will provide important new information on innovative technologies available to help meet Australia’s 2030 target and further emission reductions in the years beyond, such as renewable energy, smart grids, carbon capture and storage, electric vehicles and energy efficiency” Hunt said.

Yet at the same time, Australian National University economist Paul Burke said the $2.55 billion Direct Action fund, which pays greenhouse gas emitters to pollute less, is dead money that is paying for reductions that would have happened anyway.

The reverse-auction system meant any reduction scheme that was going to go ahead anyway would be able to outbid schemes that required funding to go ahead, Burke concluded in a recent paper in the journal Economic Papers.

“They have a cost advantage that makes them well placed to win the auction,” Burke said.

Burke said it was entirely possible some projects would end up funding emissions increases.

Examining some of the projects that were awarded payments in the first two rounds of the auction, Burke found farmers were often paid more than the value of their land simply not to clear parts of it, land they may not have cleared anyway.

Energy efficiency projects that upgraded lighting in supermarkets or reduced fuel use in vehicles fell into a similar category.

Burke said a carbon price or an emissions trading scheme was more effective, partly because it didn’t require the government to know unknowable facts such as a company’s plans.

“The previous policy of carbon pricing was a more effective approach than Direct Action,” he said.

Hunt rejected the report saying a separate report from ANU Professor Andrew Macintosh supported Direct Action.