Renewables a political football

NORTHERN Territory’s government has challenged Labor to release costings for its pledge of a 50% renewable energy target, which the opposition says is a “distraction” from scrutiny the Chief Minister is under, as debate continues over a potential national energy crisis.

Anthony Barich

NT Labor leader Michael Gunner was on Darwin’s Mix FM last week claiming the feared national energy crisis springing from South Australia’s situation earlier this month was just a “distraction” thrown up by an under-pressure Giles government.

SA’s heavily wind-reliant electricity market saw prices hit $14,000/megawatt-hour on July 7 and forced the government to beg the private owners of the mothballed Pelican Point gas-fired generator to fire it up to make up the electricity shortfall.

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles last week called on Gunner to reveal the costings of his 50% renewables policy so they could be independently verified.

“Labor is being deceptive by saying that electricity prices won’t increase under their policy,” Giles said.

“Independent modelling shows retail electricity prices would likely rise more than 400% under Labor’s flawed plan.”

Giles said Labor’s approach would not only damage energy security in the eastern states, but also increase power prices in the Territory.

“[NT] Labor wants to close down the onshore gas industry and reduce the production of cheap, low-emissions, clean, gas-fired power,” Giles said, referring to NT Labor’s promise to ban fraccing if it wins the August 10 election.

“Labor wants to distort the electricity market by introducing unnecessary, contrived targets for renewables.”

Gunner said the renewables debate was a storm in a teacup, whipped up by Giles six weeks out from an NT election he’s not guaranteed to win.

“The SA state government has made it clear that the problems they're experiencing are as a result of having lost control of generation and pricing because in a small market they sold off their publicly-owned power and water assets,” Gunner said.

“This for me sends massive warning bells about what could happen in the Territory in a small market if we went down the same path.

“Adam Giles and the CLP are hostile to renewables and I believe, if given half a sniff, would sell off the publicly-owned power-water asset.”

Energy Networks Association CEO John Bradley said this week it was possible for the national grid to enable a low-carbon future without compromising reliability and security, but policy uncertainty created an “unfortunate layer of price and security hazards” for customers.

He urged Commonwealth energy minister Josh Frydenberg to reconvene the COAG Energy Council so governments can recommit to a national compact on energy and carbon policy.

“Other countries have looked at our National Energy Market with envy, but the NEM could drown under the weight of competing state and federal carbon and renewables policies,” Bradley said.

He said too many national reforms had remained in the “too hard” basket, while individual states were failing to take account of flow-on impacts at a national level.

“Australia is yet to achieve national consistency in critical areas like consumer protection frameworks, energy pricing or coal seam gas development,” Bradley said.

“Our energy system can respond to climate risks and technology risks, but it can’t deal well with constant policy or regulatory risk.”