Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Simple economics is now driving the unstoppable rise of renewables, according to advocates – or would be, except for a mystery political obstacle.
The Myth About Coal Being Cheaper And More Reliable Than Renewables
Renewable energy is now the cheapest form of new power.
04/10/2017 11:51 PM AEDT
Nope, nope and nope again. There’s yet more proof this Friday that coal is neither cheaper nor more reliable than renewables as an energy source, and that coal is only going to get more expensive in the future.
We were given excellent evidence of this in April, when the CSIRO and Energy Networks Australia report told us that renewables could save households $414 a year by 2050.
Further proof arrived in June when the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (aka the Finkel Report) told us that ramping up renewables would lead to lower power prices.
And now the Climate Council has weighed in, showing that we really can have our energy cake and eat it too — if by energy cake you mean cleaner, cheaper power, and by eating it, you mean reliability of supply.
The Council’s new report is entitled ‘Powering a 21st Century Economy: Secure, Clean, Affordable Electricity’ and you can find it here.
So if technology’s not holding us back, and cost is not the issue, what on earth is stopping us from transitioning as quickly as possible to cleaner, more affordable renewables?
One word: Politics.
“Politics is the only factor standing in the way of Australia’s transition to a modern electricity network, powered by renewable energy and storage technology,” Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said.
What is the “politics” which seems to be such an impediment to a cheaper renewable future? One clue might be the conclusion of the report referenced by The Huffington Post. The report prepared by the Climate Council, the body led by our old friend Chief Councillor Tim Flannery;
… Importantly, while we may use some existing gas plants during this transition, we do not need new gas or coal plants built. Persisting with existing coal plants beyond their technical design lives will lead to unreliable power and higher electricity prices and continued high levels of pollution from Australia’s electricity sector.
This transition requires shifting away from obsolete “baseload” concepts and inflexible old coal power generators to a modern, flexible, 21st Century grid powered by a diverse mix of renewable energy and storage technologies. …
Read more: Climate Council Report Available Here
Is the political obstacle an outmoded adherence to the concept of baseload power? Maybe. But I’m not convinced we’ve fully explored this “politics” obstacle, so I decided to delve deeper;
Politics preventing Australia’s switch to 21st Century energy
BY CLIMATE COUNCIL
Politics is the only factor standing in the way of Australia’s transition to a modern electricity network, powered by renewable energy and storage technology, according to a new report released by the Climate Council today.
Climate Councillor and energy sector expert Andrew Stock also pointed to states and territories across the nation pushing ahead with the transition to renewables and storage technology, in a bid to achieve secure and reliable power, while also tackling climate change.
“South Australia is a global leader and is investing in solar PV, solar thermal, pumped hydro storage, and the world’s largest lithium ion battery. Others like the ACT, followed by Victoria and Queensland, are now rolling out large-scale renewables such as wind and solar,” he said.
“There’s no disputing it – fossil fuel technology is obsolete, expensive and unreliable. In fact, Within 10 years, over two thirds of our coal plants will be over 50 years old. It’s time to look to the future with an energy system fit for the 21st Century.”
Do Greens think the political obstacle is a failure by governments to invest in renewables? But if renewables are cheaper, why is government investment required? Why aren’t private investors rushing to fund cheap renewables even without government help, to make a huge profit driving their obsolete fossil fuel rivals out of business?
If cheaper renewables are skyrocketing even without government help, why is politics still seen as such an obstacle?
I don’t want to jump to conclusions. Maybe I have misunderstood something. I’m genuinely interested in understanding what political obstacles greens think are preventing the realisation of a low cost energy future powered by renewables.
Because we all want cheaper power, right?