Letter to the editor: Australia’s energy crisis

Mhairi Fraser hit the nail on the head when she said: “There shouldn’t be an energy crisis in Australia” and “Our transition from coal to renewables has been badly managed from the start” (GP 25/10).

She’s right. Twenty years ago, Australia was the envy of the world. We had some of the cheapest power in the world. We still could have, if we hadn’t attempted to transition out of cheap fossil fuels to expensive renewables so quickly by shutting down coal fired generators in eastern Australia and shifting our focus to unreliable expensive wind power. It isn’t any coincidence that the price of electricity has gone up at the same time.

Renewables are expensive and unreliable and we are transitioning too quickly out of cheap baseload fossil fuels into high cost renewables.

That’s why electricity is so expensive here. Subsidies for renewable power generation cost $2.91bn p/a; subsidies for coal fired power generation amount to $61m p/a. And yet even with these subsidies the cost of electricity in this country continues to escalate; so much so that we now have some of the most expensive and potentially unreliable power in the world.

This simply goes to show that the sun and the wind aren’t ‘free’ as some people believe. If renewables were cheaper, we would all switch over tomorrow.

James Hanson, Al Gore’s advisor, head of The Goddard Institute of Space Science and one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change, says: “Many well meaning people proceed under the illusion that soft renewable energy will replace fossil fuels if the government tries harder and provides more subsidies … but suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly out of fossil fuels … is almost the equivalent of believing in the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny”. He also believes that nuclear energy is the best option when it comes to providing clean reliable energy at the lowest cost.

It is ironic then that Australia, with 30 per cent of the world’s uranium, has legislated to ban its use for nuclear energy and is the only country in the G20 not to have some form of nuclear power generation.

To make matters worse, farmers have combined in an unholy alliance with green groups to ‘lock the gate’ on all gas exploration, making gas ‘unpopular’ as Mhairi Fraser says, which doesn’t make it uneconomic, just politically impossible to use. This shows to what depths we have sunk, where ‘politically correct’ green energy is pushing up power prices and making it difficult for those worse off to pay their power bills. Recent polling shows that if people had a choice between using renewables or cheaper power they would choose cheaper power.

Gas and coal provide baseload dispatchable reliable energy, which renewables are unable to provide. This is not a scare campaign. It is a fact. Gas is more efficient because unlike coal which has to run 24/7, it provides instant energy for power generation. Just think ‘zip’ heaters. You can turn it on when you need it.

Australia faces a chaotic future. The energy crisis in Australia has been brought about by the closure of coal fired power generators and ill-conceived, politically driven ad hoc emissions targets combined with massive subsidies for renewables.

Australia should cancel the RET and subsidies for renewables and instead, develop a plan, which we have never had, to spend the $2.91bn on objective scientific research, as Japan is doing, to determine the best mix for a cheap reliable low emissions future. There are plenty of options to include in the mix ranging from nuclear, hydro, tidal, solar and batteries, to wind gas and coal.

Tony Morrison, Goulburn