Leading article Australia

The madness of Green Kean

12 December 2020

9:00 AM

12 December 2020

9:00 AM

The New South Wales Liberal government of Gladys Berejiklian has embarked upon the most reckless and unprecedented assault upon the future economic viability of (arguably) Australia’s most important state. In order to ‘sell’ his ultra-Green fantasy to naive and gullible supporters of the Liberal party, the NSW ‘Energy’ Minister (the inverted commas deserve to become a permanent fixture of his title) has promised that his renewables revolution will ‘lead to 9,000 jobs and 23,000 indirect jobs’. Indeed, the main thrust of his pitch to wary Liberal supporters is that his renewable energy scheme is a boon for jobs. Put aside the ‘indirect jobs’ malarkey – that’s just spin –, spending $32 billion of taxpayers’ money to create 9,000 full-time jobs is an obscenity, working out at around three and a half million dollars per job created.

In reality, of course, the real job creation occurs in the back provinces of China, where tens of thousands of workers (voluntarily or otherwise) will build the massive wind turbines and solar panels which Mr Kean’s plans demand. Currently, something like 90 per cent of all solar panels come from the communist republic. As Daryl McCann and Rebecca Weisser both point out this week, with relationships with China rapidly deteriorating, is this really such a brilliant idea to now be putting the supply of all future NSW energy infrastructure into the grip of Xi Jinping? What’s more, as is now well documented even by the conservationist hard-Left, the carbon emissions required to build these unwieldy tools of the climate revolution frequently surpass the total amount the machines themselves are capable of ‘saving’.

But take a philosophical step backwards and you realise how preposterous this idea of ‘job-creation-through-energy-infrastructure’ really is. The only role electricity should play in job creation is in providing the absolute cheapest and most reliable permanent supply of the stuff to allow those with the imagination and entrepreneurial skills to use it creatively to manufacture the goods and services the world wants at the most competitive prices. The cheaper that supply of energy is, the more genuine jobs will be created, and self-evidently, the more expensive the cost of electricity becomes, the fewer jobs it will lead to. If the supply of energy is of itself being used to create jobs, by definition that is adding to the cost of the raw product (energy) and therefore is crippling genuine and productive job-creation everywhere it is used. On top of this, the cheaper that electricity is for everyday use, the more disposable income households have, leading to more real jobs being created with the accumulated and ongoing extra spending power. Put up household electricity prices and you destroy all those ‘indirect’ jobs as well.

This is not a question of ideology, but rather, of common sense. What Mr Kean and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet gloss over is that by artificially pushing subsidised intermittent generation into the grid, you force the early closure of otherwise cost-effective coal-fired power stations. Our existing fleet are designed to run at a constant speed, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; ramping them up and down makes then run less efficiently, at higher cost, and puts more wear and tear on the mechanical parts, shortening each plant’s life. Think of a truck running in heavy city traffic, accelerating and braking heavily, compared to running on a flat straight road at a steady speed.

As has been seen elsewhere, Mr Kean’s plan will cause remaining NSW coal generators to bring forward their scheduled closure dates (this is obviously great news for Greens activists) and prices will rise. Disingenuously, Mr Kean claims there can be no new clean coal-fired power plants because ‘banks in Australia will not lend money to people who want to invest in this type of energy’ and that ‘insurance companies wouldn’t insure them’; fatuous comments because of course they most certainly would if the government made clear it wasn’t riddled with Green anti-coal ideologues. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Most laughable of all, Mr Kean likes to reassure conservatives that ‘small nuclear power reactors will come on line in 2030’, but that NSW cannot wait that long because ‘it’s all about the economics’. If nuclear is our fail-safe, and renewables merely an extremely expensive stop-gap, then why not invest our $32 billion in nuclear power immediately, rather than wasting taxpayer money on inefficient and unreliable windmills, solar powers and batteries.? After all, a quick scribble on the back of an envelope shows that in order to supply NSW with sufficient back-up for, say, two consecutive rainy days, the state will need around 800 batteries the size of the ‘world’s largest battery’ in South Australia. Otherwise it’s lights out.

Still, on the bright side Minister Kean and his climate-obsessed ilk will no doubt get a warm inner glow from his ‘energy’ plan; the lucky carpet-bagging renewables investors and renewables hedge funds will make a fortune and it’s only poor old Mrs Kafoops who freezes (or boils) in her bedroom.

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