Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Multinational Mining Giant Glencore has warned of job losses and damaging economic contraction, because government favouritism towards renewable energy has eroded reliable baseload capacity. Energy intensive businesses like Glencore are firing workers and decommissioning factories, to match the reduced availability of reliable baseload power.
Australia passes a ‘tipping point’ in energy crisis
Glencore has warned that Australia has drifted past a “tipping point” of industrial energy “demand destruction” and that the nation has 12 months to re-establish reliability and affordability of its base load power capacity or risk permanent and unpredictable shifts in the shape of the economy.
“We have to meet Australia’s energy needs now, in five years, 10 years and 15 years. We can’t rely on blue-sky thinking. There is an energy crisis in the world’s largest exporter of coal, the second largest exporter of gas and a major exporter of uranium. We need real solutions. Unless we make decisions really quickly, and I mean in the next 12 months, that re-establish base load capacity then we have no chance of sustaining the economy in the shape that it is in now.
“In the end the market will work its way to balance,” Freyberg continued. “It will stabilise – but the wrong way and for the wrong reason. The inability to secure affordable base load supply means that the problem will be fixed by demand destruction.
“We are beyond the tipping point in terms of industrial demand destruction. And when capacity is closed and plants are shut down, they don’t come back.
The Glencore position is that the erosion of Australia’s base load capacity caused by a policy preference for intermittent renewable options has left the national market critically exposed to peak-demand shortages. And Freyberg’s forthright criticism completes an unwelcome trifecta for our federal and state governments.
In March, Rio [Tinto] shut 14 per cent of its production at the Boyne Island smelter for want of an acceptable electricity supply contract. Rio generates 86 per cent of its own power for the Gladstone-based smelter but had been acquiring the balance of its needs from the spot market. A two-year effort to replace that spot exposure with contracted supply proved unsuccessful and, as a result, an equivalent quantum of Boyne production was closed.
That meant more than 100 Australians lost their jobs and Rio surrendered 80,000 tonnes a year of aluminium exports. It is worth digesting in full the transcript of Jacques’s spiky post-annual general meeting contribution to the national energy debate. His frankness announces, with equal force, the depth of Rio’s anxiety and the difference in style Jacques will bring to Rio.
If Australia continues this green madness then we shall achieve dramatic CO2 emission reductions; the Australian economy will contract until business demand matches the availability of reliable, affordable electricity.