Latham's Law

Latham’s law

23 May 2020

9:00 AM

23 May 2020

9:00 AM

The new renewables religion

There has been a stirring at Stonehenge. The ancient Inca spirits of Machu Picchu are coming alive. While at the Great Pyramid of Giza, visitors have reported high-pitched sounds of excitement from inside the stonework.Across an ungodly globe we are witnessing the rebirth of pagan idolatry. Sun worshippers are particularly active, breaking Coronavirus restrictions to climb tall structures in an attempt to get closer to their object of desire. A strange new cult has also emerged, as inner-city-types wearing hessian pants and hemp kaftans stand on street corners praying for the wind to blow. Paganism is back. The Age of Renewables is upon us. You can read it in every newspaper or hear it all day on the ABC. Breathless accounts of how, in a world ravaged by Covid-19, the road to economic recovery lies in renewable energy. Every green activist and two-bit celebrity is parroting this line, from their 10-bedroom mansions with carbon footprints the size of Parramatta.  If only Australia would invest billions of dollars we haven’t got in wind and solar power, we would soon be back at full employment. In the NSW Parliament where I serve, the Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment and Planning has called for submissions on the possibility of a renewables renaissance. But there is no need for a parliamentary inquiry, with MPs trudging around solar farms and being hypnotised by windmills in the western parts of the state. The Berejiklian Government has already provided the answer. In March 2020, the Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt the very Kean-Green, released his ‘Net Zero Plan, Stage 1: 2020-2030’ for fighting climate change.

It said that extensive research work and ‘modelling by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (had) informed the plan with all major sectors of the NSW economy addressed, including electricity, transport, agriculture, on-site energy use, mining, industry, waste and forestry’. Minister Kean-Green outlined how, ‘The NSW and Commonwealth governments will invest almost $2 billion over 10 years to reduce emissions in NSW, making this the most comprehensive, fully-funded plan in Australia.’ Policies were announced for public investments in hydrogen technology, solar panels, wind farms, three Renewable Energy Zones, electric vehicles, EV charging stations, a $450 million Emissions Intensity Reduction Program, Climate Solutions Fund, expanded Energy Efficiency Program, Primary Industries Productivity and Abatement Program, Coal Innovation Program, Green Investment Strategy, carbon financial services hub, BASIX and NABERS reform, Clean Technology Program, national parks expansion, landfill and organic waste diversion and a low-carbon NSW procurement policy. As government plans go, it had more announcements than the PA system at Central station.


And the employment outcome from this avalanche of policy activity and spending? Over the next 10 years, ‘NSW is expected to create almost 2,400 jobs.’ That’s all. Less than 240 jobs per annum. This highlights an important reality: the employment returns from government investment in renewable energy are paltry. It’s a massive waste of public money. In its totality, the renewables religion is a jobs destroyer. The relentless promotion and subsidisation of intermittent solar and wind threatens 75,000 coal-reliant jobs in the Hunter Valley. Why would the NSW government spend billions of dollars going down this path when the upside involves less than 240 jobs per annum? In the face of a deep economic recession and double-digit unemployment, why jeopardise 75,000 jobs for the creation of 2,400 jobs? I know governments are subject to bouts of insanity but this one would require the reopening of Callan Park. Unlike the United States, Australia has been fortunate in avoiding the tragedy of rust-bucket regions: long stretches of working class communities hollowed out by de-industrialisation, with the parents on welfare and the kids on drugs. Yet this is the future Liberal Lefties like Malcolm Turnbull, Kean-Green and John Hewson want for the Hunter.

The insanity is not just in the Labor Left and Greens. And coal is not the only industry to suffer. Major international manufacturing companies are refusing to invest in Australia because we can’t guarantee keeping the lights on. The Australian Energy Market Operator has warned of the heightened risks of blackouts in NSW and Victoria. In response, the pagans point to the mystical power of ‘battery storage’ and ‘firmed renewables’. But electricity is notoriously difficult to capture and store. There is no proven, cost-viable technology for mass battery storage in Australia. Elon Musk built the world’s largest battery farm in South Australia, but its capacity is limited. To use a NSW comparison, it only has enough storage to power up the Tomago aluminium smelter for eight minutes. The head of AGL, Brett Redman, has tried to quantify the battery storage task for a 100 per cent renewables Australian economy. It would require an extraordinary 350,000 shipping containers filled to the roof with batteries. If laid end-on-end, they would stretch from Sydney to Perth and into the Indian Ocean. Clearly, this is not going to happen. Renewables advocates talk about ‘the science of climate change’, but when it comes to storage technology, they are promoting science fiction. The new paganism is in a constant state of denial. Minister Kean-Green, for instance, has repeatedly asserted that, ‘Firmed renewables are the cheapest form of new reliable electricity generation.’ Yet the December 2019 CSIRO GenCost report found, ‘When storage is added to solar and wind, this raises their costs to a similar level to that of fossil fuels’. When the huge costs of rebuilding the transmission grid to accommodate renewables are added to the equation, coal and gas are significantly cheaper.All those flower children dancing through the fields worshipping the sun and wind are actually part of a rent-seekers’ picnic.

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