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A Duplicitous Minister?

Posted on 12 February 2019 by Riduna

In a ‘Breakfast’ interview with Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National, the Australian Minister for Energy, Angus Taylor, made a number of statements which are either wrong or misleading.  A record of the interview is available here.

1.  The Minister claims that a ‘significant investment of $15 billion is being made in renewables’.  

This is an understatement of over $11 billion.  Fig. 1., shows that as at 1 January, 2019 State Governments and end-users had approved investment in 126 clean energy projects at an estimated cost of $26.1 billion, with new capacity to generate 20,516 MW of electricity.

Fig. 1. New Projects approved by Governments for construction.  Most projects were under construction or are likely to commence in 2019.  Source: Internet scans, Proponents advice  and Clean Energy Council data.

2.  The Minister asserts that Government target to reduce emissions by 26% (below 2005 levels) is a ‘strong target’ and one which will be met by 2022, a claim supported by the fact that we now have the lowest per capita emissions in 28 years.

Fran Kelly asked how could this be when data published by Government showed emissions in 2018 were rising.  The Minister evaded the question with a misleading comment on per capita emissions.

The Minister knows (or should do) that both the Paris Accord and emissions causing global warming are measured in terms of ‘absolute’ not ‘per capita’ emissions and in absolute terms, Australia’s emissions are rising.

3.  The Minister claims that ‘in the national electricity market we shall meet the 26%         Paris target by 2022’.

To be a bit more accurate, the Paris Accord target is to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 remissions by 2030.  The Minister claims this will be achieved by 2022.  In theory this is possible - but unlikely.  More likely is that the target could be reached by 2025, depending on growth in demand for electricity and the number of fossil fuelled power stations closed over the next 5-10 years.

The Ministers enthusiasm appears to be largely based on the size of the 2019 Pipeline of renewable energy projects which, as sown above, presently stands at around 20 GW and an investment of $26 billion.  The speed with which these projects are likely to be completed may have been viewed optimistically.  It may have been assumed that Pipeline Capacity will be routinely achieved which of course it will not be.  More certain is that the Government will meet its Paris target before 2030.

4.  The Minister asserts that ‘what we are not going to do’ is adopt a target of 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 (as the Australian Labor Party [ALP] have done) because economically this would be a wrecking target which would see Gladstone and Mackay shut down, the cement and aluminium industries shut down and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The Minister has never publicly examined the adequacy of the 26% target in making a realistic contribution to reducing global emissions whereas the ALP appears to have done so, hence its much higher 45% reduction target.  His claims about the effects of the 45% reduction target are totally unfounded and should be seen for what they are – hysterical rhetoric, unsupported by fact.

5.The Minister stressed the need to balance heavy investment in renewables with investment in energy which is available 24/7, that if we don’t get the balance right we won’t get lower electricity prices and reliability of supply.  He was concentrating on ‘keeping the lights on’ and outcomes.

It is here that the Minister appears to make two fundamental mistakes:

(a)  He fails to consider when blackout and need for power shedding occur. If they occur during daytime, the need is for increased generating capacity to meet a rising peak in demand – but if they occur during night-time, the need is for additional 'dispatchable' power, ability to supply more energy when solar panels are inactive - and that can be addressed using increased storage capacity and/or increased wind or hydro energy.

Loss of electricity supply in Victoria and S.A. occurred during the daytime when peak heat created high demand for air conditioning.  What was needed to address this was increased generating capacity, which could have been provided from renewable sources, had they been available.  They soon will be.

As shown in Fig 1 above, Victoria and South Australia (S.A.) State Governments have approved the building of 40 projects providing new generate capacity of over 6,000 MW to address this very issue.  Victoria’s projects include 12 solar and 12 wind farms the latter able to generate over 2,000 MW with capacity to do so day or night.  

Fig. 2.  Solar and wind farms account for most new investment, with wind and storage able to provide 9,000 MW 'back-up' for solar.  Hybrid projects comprise a mixture of solar, wind or  biogas.  Source: Internet scans, Proponents advice and Clean Energy Council data.

What the Minister did not mention (or know?) is that new projects likely to start in 2019 include new pumped water and battery storage, as shown in Fig 2, with capacity to store 1,800 MW which will also help eliminate power outages of the kind experienced by Victoria and S.A. during the January 2019 heatwaves when temperatures exceeded 40°C.

(b)  The Minister fails to recognise that it is now cheaper to generate electricity from renewable sources, particularly wind, than from burning fossil fuels, with the possible exception of gas and that lower electricity prices can not be obtained by government subsidising private sector investment in fossil fuelled power stations.  Taxpayers money could be used to subsidise electricity generated by fossil fuelled power stations but this is not the best use of public monies, since approved clean energy and storage projects can ensure future continuity of supply.

It takes around 5-6 years to build and commission a new fossil fuelled power station and about 3 years to refurbish an existing power station which is no longer commercially viable.  In practical terms such a power station would not ‘come-on-line’ much before 2024, by which time technology advances will have been made in solar panel efficiency and electricity storage density which further reduce the cost of generating and storing electricity produced from renewable sources, making fossil fuelled generators even less competitive.

The Minister has indicated that to ensure continuity of electricity supply, Government is prepared to consider encouraging investment in uncompetitive generators by using taxpayers money to subsidise higher priced electricity sold by them.  If implemented, this would be an inappropriate and unnecessary use of public monies since it would also be subsidising greenhouse gas emissions.


The Australian Government and its Minister for Energy have long been suspected of seeking to promote new coal fired generating capacity, which of course increases greenhouse gas emissions and accelerates temperature rise. Having just endured the hottest January on record – with daily temperatures in some places nudging 50°C – and with a General Election to be held in May, the electorate is becoming increasingly concerned by the absence of government policy which effectively contributes to slowing climate change or dealing with its effects.

Most recently those effects have included reported loss of some 500,000 head of cattle in N.W. Queensland floods and over 1 million fish dead due to hypoxia in New South Wales rivers and lakes.                                                

Australian and international banks will not lend to facilitate the building of fossil fuelled power stations in Australia.  They know that such loans would be high risk, hence the government decision to consider public funding, subject of course to approval by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Since the Government is in minority in both places, it is unlikely to gain the support it needs to proceed with measures which are viewed by the electorate with growing dislike.

The Energy Minister interview does little to ameliorate that dislike and nothing which is likely to gain support for the Coalition Government at the May election.  Still, listen to the interview and make up your own mind.


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Comments 1 to 12:

  1. >>....with capacity to store 1,800 MW.....<<

    ??? Power or energy?

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  2. Wol - not clear as source is not transparent. The only two I could find were 2018 units with 25MW/50MWh and 30MW/30MWh respectively in Vic and 2 (30MW and 50MWh) in SA joining the initial Tesla 100MW/129MWh already operating.

    So whatever? (Power and energy broadly same).

    12 new plants would need to average 150MW or MWh to scale for that much storage.

    A clearer source for the pipeline would help.

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  3. The Clean Energy Council lists 83 projects which are either underway or about to commence. The information regarding capacity, investment and jobs is not always complete and where this is the case I have endeavoured to complete the information by undertaking internet searches of individual projects or seeking advice from their proponents.

    In addition, through internet searches, I have identified a further 43 projects which are either underway or about to commence in 2019. These include projects being built specifically to supply the National or W.A. Grids or are being built to supply end users with electricity directly – not through a Grid.

    Several proponents who provided data did so on the understanding that it would not be published. I gave that undertaking and have therefore limited the published material to summaries only.

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  4. Thanks Riduna - that is a considerable help though the storage information is very thin even on that site and nowhere near 1800 unless Snowy 2.0 is included, which I understand will not be ready to start in 2019 (at least in terms of actual construction).

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  5. scaddenp

    Storage relates to 3 projects in Queensland, 7 in South Australia and 2 in Victoria, 12 in all as shown in Fig 2.  Details are (I hope) available at:

    2019 STORAGE

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  6. scaddenp

    Sorry I did not manage to insert a table showing details of all storage projects which shows URL's for half of them do not appear in the Clean Energy Council schedules.  Details are as follows:

    Kidston Stage 2 - Storage.  Capacity 250 MW
    Kaban Battery.  Capacity 100
    Harlin Battery Storage. Capacity 500
    Riverland Storage Batttery.  Capacity 100
    Solar River Project - Stage 1 Battery.  Capacity 100
    Solar River Project - Stage 2 Battery.  Capacity 150
    Lake Bonney Battery Storage 1 and 2.  Capacity 50
    Kingfisher Solar Farm - Stage 2.  Capacity 120
    Kingfisher Storage Battery,  Capacity 100
    Goat Hill Pumped Hydro Storage. Capacity 230
    Ganawarra Storage System.  Capacity 25

    Nowingi Storage Battery.  Capacity 80

    TOTAL 1805

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  7. The minister is indeed very duplicitous. I was interested to find out if any coal and gas fired power is planned for australia. The wikipedia article below could be out of date by now, but it suggests almost no coal power is planned and little in the way of gas. I just wonder if the minister knows this full well and has little intention of changing it, but was  playing to the pro coal power lobby and his conservative leaning supporters mainly  to look tough and say things they want to hear. I hope so. But anyway the list of renewable energy projects is impressive.

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  8. It raises the question of whether countries such as Australia should maintain high population growth policies when it's clear that population growth is more than offsetting reductions in per-capita emissions, making it very difficult to maintain absolute emissions targets.    

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  9. Art Vandelay – Good point.

    Australia has no immigration policy but one is in the process of being formulated. Pending its evolution, immigration is being reduced from around 190,000 per annum to 160,000 and may be further reduced once government produces a bipatisan policy.

    Although population growth results in higher demand for electricity it is likely that this will be met in full by renewables. Not so in the case of  transport sector emissions – at least not until EV’s achieve price parity with fossil fuelled vehicles, likely to occur over the next 5 years.

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  10. I don't think it makes much sense to reduce immigration to make the emissions reductions numbers look good. It's not reducing global emissions. It means you miss out on any benefits of immigration.

    I wonder if we have to judge countries with high immigration by also considering per capita emissions as well as total numbers.

    Of course immigration can get too high and put pressure on infrastructure. New Zealand has had high immigration recently but double the Australian numbers after accounting for difference in population size. So does Australia really have a problem? Careful that big reductions in immigration don't crash your property market.

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  11. nijelj@10, If we're going to be serious about reducing emissions to zero we'll need to embrace a new economic paradigm that doesn't rely on on a population ponzi scheme. Japan really is the template for an economy that doesn't rely on increasing consumption by virtue of an increasing population.  No country on the planet should have a population that cannot be supported by its own natural resources, and there needs to be policies that limit the percentage of human footprint including land allocated for primary and agriculture.   

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  12. Art Vandelay, I agree the world needs to stop relying on population growth to boost economies and I have said myself we need to get population growth rates down to zero, but immigration is a different thing because it doesn't change global population. Australia seems to be under populated (quick google search), even when you take in to account much of it is not habitable, so the resource pressure isn't there.

    I'm not suggesting you open the flood gates to huge numbers of immigrants or refugees, because it's always a balancing act and I feel should be based on people with useful skills. And it's Australias business of course. Imho it just wouldn't be right to manipulate immigration to make climate accounting look good. 

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