Leading article Australia

King Coal’s reign not over yet

21 July 2018

9:00 AM

21 July 2018

9:00 AM

When it comes to power generation, only two things matter. One, ensuring a sufficient and reliable supply of electricity to power Australia’s homes and wealth-generating businesses. Two, ensuring that the power generated is as cheap as possible.

Everything else is secondary, including the level of carbon emissions. Yet obsessing about reducing those emissions above all else is not only folly, it is national policy. Scruffy greenie hippies, with their dreadlocks, tie-dyes and tea-cosy crochet hats, call the shots on energy policy and Mr and Mrs Average Australian pay the price.

In the last week two reports made clear how much our obsession with CO2, and with pushing renewable energy sources at all costs, have trumped electricity affordability and secure supply. First, an Australian Consumer and Competition Commission report on retail energy pricing put hard figures on the cost to consumers of emissions-first energy politics. According to the ACCC, while natural monopolies of power generation and increased wholesale and infrastructure costs have driven power prices higher than they need be, ‘green’ costs add intolerable insult to power bill injury. Over the last decade, the ACCC found the green component of an average annual household power bill rose from just $19 to $103. A household with solar panels with feed-in tariffs cross-subsidised by non-solar households and business now has an average power bill advantage of almost $550. Those who benefit, and the renewable energy industry that’s sprung up around heavily-subsidised green power, think this wonderful.  The pensioners and working poor who subsidise them beg to differ.


The second report was by none other than the Australian Energy Market Operator, the national agency charged with ensuring the lights are kept on. In a report commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments as it considers Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee, AEMO concluded it will be decades before renewables are capable of supplanting coal, and coal-fired generation must be kept going to ensure secure and affordable electricity supplies.

While the AEMO report should have, but didn’t, recommend building new coal-fired power stations, it was still a dose of realism for starry-eyed greenies and their political acolytes. It also sends a clear warning to power generators like AGL that are keener to virtue-signal their green credentials by shutting down viable coal-fired facilities than to reduce customers’ power bills.If AEMO is telling those generators and Gaia-worshipping state governments that we can’t have a National Energy Guarantee without coal, that is particularly welcome.

Until renewables have the generation and storage capacity to sustain Australia’s power baseload as our population soars to around 40 million mid-century, coal must remain king.

If energy minister Josh Frydenberg had any influence over these reports’ timing with COAG soon deciding on his National Energy Guarantee, he proves he truly does put Mr and Mrs Average Australia ahead of appeasing tea-cosy heads and ABC panellists who’ll never vote Coalition in a pink fit. Besides endorsing these reports’ findings, Mr Frydenberg should go further and back Australia’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and its economy-wrecking carbon reduction targets. What better way to make an emphatic statement to the world that Australia’s mad obsession with emissions over common sense is over.

Unafforda-Bill

Bill Shorten is consistent in his inconsistency: populist Mr Shorten a backflipper par excellence when his scathingly brilliant ideas are more scathing than brilliant. Just lately, we have seen Mr Shorten water down his dividend imputation tax when he realised belatedly that Labor-voting pensioners and retirees would be hurt most. Last month, his ‘captain’s call’ to repeal business tax cuts already legislated lasted a whole three days before his appalled shadow cabinet effectively rolled him. And now he’s been caught walking back from his mad and ignorant plan to force a two per cent cap on private health insurance premium rises.

Such reversals can’t be dismissed as Mr Shorten’s refreshing willingness to admit mistakes and listen to criticism. They are symptoms of consistently poor judgment and leadership, even as polls say he is PM-in-waiting. A PM who makes policy by thought bubble, who invariably puts political advantage ahead of the national interest, who declares class war to win votes, who decides policy on what’s popular and not what’s best, is a danger to the country. Australia can’t afford Backflip Bill.

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