Leading article Australia

Labor goes coal turkey

16 March 2019

9:00 AM

16 March 2019

9:00 AM

Opinion polling last week provided chilling evidence that Australians are planning to elect a Shorten Labor government – the Greenest in our history.

That’s bad news for workers and businesses in the productive economy, as spelt out in modelling by Dr Brian Fisher, former head of the Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 (relative to Australia’s emissions in 2005) has been conservatively estimated by Dr Fisher to reduce GDP by a whopping $144 billion dollars in 2030, with cumulative GDP losses over the decade from 2020 to 2030 estimated at $472 billion. That’s nearly half a trillion dollars simply to show the world we are ‘doing our bit’. Some bit!

When Labor was last in power in 2013, growth in GDP was a miserable 1.9 per cent. With its new measures in place, Shorten could slash average annual GDP growth by 0.6 percentage points over the next decade, reducing it from its current rate of 2.3 per cent down to 1.7 per cent. Without counting the cost of Labor’s other growth-sapping taxes, Mr Shorten could crow, ‘Honey, I shrunk the economy!’

Already, Liddell power station in New South Wales, which produces 2,000 megawatt of power a year and Yallourn power station in Victoria, which produces another 1,800 megawatt of power, are slated to close by 2030, reducing coal-fired generation capacity from 24,660 megawatt to 21,180 megawatt.

Labor has refused to say whether it will use carryover credits to achieve its targets, which allow a nation to take credit for emissions reduction already achieved in excess of national targets during the Kyoto period, but the practice has been damned as ‘dodgy’ by the Greens. If, heaven forfend, we end up with a minority Labor government, reliant on the Greens and deep-green ‘Independents’ to retain power, we can kiss goodbye to carryover credits.

In that scenario, under Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target, and without the use of carryover credits, the Menzies Research Centre calculates that a further nine coal-fired power stations will have to close – Vales Point, Earing and Bayswater in New South Wales, Gladstone, Tarong and Callide C in Queensland, Muja in Western Australia, and Loy Yang A and B in Victoria. That means the people’s socialist republic of Victoria will lose its entire coal-fired generation capacity, creating a 4,730 megawatt reliability gap, three times larger than the deficit created by the closure of Hazelwood.

New South Wales will lose 83 per cent of its coal-fired generation capacity and four out of five of its coal-fired generation plants. Queensland will lose four of its eight coal-fired power plants and Western Australia will lose its largest coal-fired power plant, removing 56 per cent of its capacity.

That would be music to the ears of Greenpeace, who, it was revealed this week, commissioned the report on which Labor based its policy. For the hairshirt brigade, too much economic misery is never enough. And, of course, that misery is not shared equally – the poor will suffer while rich greenies, crying crocodile tears, will be rolling in clover.

That includes the shareholders in Macquarie Bank, which, since 2010 has committed or arranged about $15 billion of investment in renewable energy projects and reportedly has another $24 billion available for new green energy projects around the world.

Presumably, amongst the smaller fry popping open the Bolly, would be the renewables investor son of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose dad last week exploded on Twitter when his predecessor, Tony Abbott, made the simple point that coal-fired power remains the cheapest way of generating base-load electricity.

Mr Turnbull Senior fired back almost immediately, tweeting that ‘the cheapest form of new dispatchable base-load energy is renewables plus storage,’ accusing Mr Abbott of ‘ideology and innumerate idiocy’. Really? Even Mr Turnbull’s anointed energy expert, chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel wrote in the Finkel Report that supercritical coal-fired power would be the cheapest form of energy in 2020, by a country mile, with a levelised cost of just $76 per megawatt hour compared with $91 per megawatt hour for large-scale solar photovoltaic, $92 per megawatt hour for wind, $138 per megawatt hour for large-scale solar photovoltaic with storage and $172 per megawatt hour for solar thermal with storage.

Of course, that doesn’t wash with the clowns at Channel 9 who claimed this week that renewables were cheaper than coal. If that were true, how is it that consumers in South Australia and Denmark, which just happen to have the highest penetration of renewable energy in the world, also have the world’s most expensive power prices?

The nation has seen how Victoria and South Australia suffered after the closure of Hazelwood, Alinta and Northern power stations. We’ll all be blasted back to candlepower if Labor is elected in May.

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