Power impasse leaves everyone in the dark

Mal Peters: Power impasse leaves everyone in the dark


Opinion
Mal Peters says renewable energy appears the commonsense option – but has questions over supply reliability.

Mal Peters says renewable energy appears the commonsense option – but has questions over supply reliability.

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"The time has come to bury idealogical opposition and establish a national energy plan"

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FARMERS care little about the ructions in the national energy debate.

But they are worried about the cost of electricity and the impact on their bottom line.

Electricity prices have nearly doubled since the carbon tax was canned and State government assured us privatisation would keep prices down.

Recent blackouts in South Australia and power shut downs in NSW demonstrate our electricity problems and both state and Federal governments are to blame.

The obstructive politicisation of the energy debate, including the Coalition’s aversion to a carbon tax/energy intensity scheme/carbon reduction scheme, makes no sense when Howard signed up to Kyoto and Turnbull to the Paris agreement – both of which are about reducing Australia's carbon emissions.

You cannot say coal is the cheapest way of generating electricity, because when you add the cost of the carbon emissions it makes it more expensive than renewables.

Talk of clean coal is rubbish as the technology is only used in one location internationally and is extremely expensive.

Gas is another option and you would think Australia, as the world’s largest gas exporter, would have plenty. But there are predictions we may well run out of gas by next year which begs the question: Why hasn't government made it compulsory we retain enough gas to supply our domestic market first? 

Of course the economic purist will say you have to let the market discover the best price, and that is export.

But if we do not have enough gas for emergency electricity supply we might have a lot of wealthy gas companies with very diminished domestic activity.

The common sense option appears to be renewable energy – but it has supply drawbacks if the sun doesn’t shine or wind blow.

Technology appears to be the key that solves that problem, with Tesla and Zen developing high tech batteries that can store the electricity for a 24-hour supply regardless of lack of sun or wind.

Government is badly trailing public opinion with major gas companies, major miners, electricity producers and even the National Farmers Federation saying we must have a national energy policy to give some certainty for investment.

Major financiers will not finance new coal power stations as they require at least 30-to-40-year investments, and that’s before you factor in the volatile environmental issues.

If government sits on its hands any longer prices will continue to spiral and Australia will face ongoing electricity interruptions. Farmers will not thank politicians for this.

The time has come to bury idealogical opposition and establish a national energy plan so companies can start investing with certainty to avoid a potential energy catastrophe.

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