Costly & Pointless Wind Power Subsidies Slammed by Australia’s National Party
When STT cranked into gear in December 2012, hammering the wind industry was a fairly lonely occupation: hardly fashionable; a bit like wearing yellow to a funeral, really.
Back then, openly questioning the “wonders” of wind power was a guaranteed dinner party showstopper. Nervous hosts – choking on their organic pinot gris – would seek to segue to another less contentious topic – the joys of dancing cat videos, say; tempers might flare, among raised voices one of the more passionate would shout something about: “the science is settled man”.
The protagonist asserting that dreaded CO2 gas was an obvious planet killing “problem”; to which the only “solution” was carpeting the world in an endless sea of bat-chomping, bird slicing, blade-chucking, pyrotechnic,sonic-torture devices – not that the wound-up wind power advocate would have ever presented, let alone dealt with, minor issues like those, as part of his “we’ve gotta save the planet” manifesto.
But that was then, this is now.
Now, people with a modicum of intelligence – anything like an inquisitive nature; and gifted with a shred of logic – are able to unpick the fraud in several easy steps. Indeed, in discourse among those with an adult’s mental capacity it’s no longer a mortal sin these days to express the bleeding obvious: THESE THINGS DON’T WORK.
On the contrary, calling the great wind power fraud for what it is has become fashionable: for want of a better phrase it’s “the new black”.
For another look at the latest fashion trend, we’ll cross to a report on a motion to support the greatest economic and environmental fraud of all time – foolishly pitched to members of Australia’s National Party (the minority Party that forms the Federal Coalition government).
Nats Reject Renewables
17 September 2015
THE Federal National party’s weekend conference rejected a controversial motion calling for support of the renewable energy sector and the federal government to back related projects based in regional centres.
The motion was moved and spoken for strongly mostly by delegates from Western Australia who raised concerns about excessive costs and access to power generation in regional areas.
The WA delegation also expressed concerns the party must be progressive through a statement of support for renewable energy projects and seeking to capture future economic opportunities.
But a rear-guard action – spearheaded by former long-serving Queensland Senator Ron Boswell and current Queensland Hinkler MP Keith Pitt – saw the motion eventually defeated by a 43-34 vote.
Opponents of the motion, including Queensland National Party Womens’ president Theresa Craig, argued that renewable energy projects like wind farms were heavily subsidised by taxpayer funds which they opposed.
Ms Craig said, as a scientist and a regional person “I’d love to support this but I can’t because the facts do not add up”.
“Unfortunately the Green propaganda has not given us the facts,” she said.
“Today, 5 per cent of clean energy adds an extra 15pc to our utility bill; reference Queensland University of Technology.”
Ms Craig said research by the Heartland Institute had also said that every job created by the renewable energy sector meant two to three jobs were lost.
“Renewable energies are the way of the future but right at the moment it’s being subsidised,” she said.
“What we need to do is put the support into getting renewable energies that can stand on their-own two feet.
“We as farmers, don’t we have to stand on our own two feet?
“We have to do it by ourselves, so this needs to be done the same way for the renewable energy people.”
Young WA Nationals president Lachlan Hunter said he majored in agricultural science studies at UWA and believed the conference should “get over the semantics” and consider the motion’s intent.
Mr Hunter said the motion wasn’t saying coal should be “cut out” or remove the way energy is traditionally produced in Australia.
He said it was “simply saying we support the renewable energy sector and to have those projects based in regional centres”.
“Don’t get hung up on the words ‘renewable energy’ just because it’s related to the Greens,” he said.
“I think we can be proactive in this space and actually support it if the science does prove that it’s out there and it’s a sustainable industry.”
Newly elected WA Nationals president James Hayward also spoke strongly for the motion saying its critics had strayed “well beyond what it’s about”.
He said the reality was, “sustainable energy is something that we need to embrace in some form”.
“Windmills that chop up birds are perhaps not the answer,” he said.
“This motion does not say (renewable energy) is the answer; it says this space needs to be part of who we are and what we do.
“We cannot allow the Greens or Labor to take responsibility for looking after our space, our environment.
“We’ve got a generation of younger people growing up and those people, for whatever reason, are simply more connected to the idea of looking after the environment and we need to grasp and get hold of that.
“This motion doesn’t talk about offering financial incentives.
“It just says it’s on the radar for us and we know that technology is out there and part of the future and we need to embrace it.”
But Mr Boswell returned fire with an impassioned plea saying he was “vehemently” against the motion.
“Whichever way you cut and dice this motion the motion goes out that says you support renewable energy,” he said.
Mr Boswell said his advice to Mr Hayward, gained by serving a number of years in federal parliament, was “don’t ever try and be a Green”.
“Don’t ever try and be one (a Green) because you are neither the Nationals or a Green and you just lose everyone so let’s be distinct about what we stand for,” he said.
Mr Boswell said subsidies on renewable energy were impacting energy prices and adding to agricultural production or processing costs in areas like beef, grains and dairy.
“You are paying through the nose for this renewable energy,” he said.
“Rural Australia is probably paying more than anyone else for it.
“It will only work if it’s subsidised and who’s going to pay for it, you are.”
WA Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Dave Grills said those in favour of the motion were asking the Nationals Australia to support renewable energy and were not asking for billions and billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars.
“We’re asking for your support to do it because economically, it suits regional WA,” he said.
Another speaker, representing Wide Bay in Queensland said, “I’m totally over it with my tax dollars paying for subsidies for renewable energy windmills”.
“I resent my birds in this nation being chopped sliced and diced by these devices.”
Mr Pitt said there was a place for renewables for remote power generation but that decision should be made by those who distribute it.
He said under the current agreed, Renewable Energy Target ET of 33,000 gigawatt hours, as much capacity as has been produced in last 15 years, will need to be built in five years.
Mr Pitt said renewable energy certificates on an average of $47 would, over the next 15 years, cost electricity users $24 billion – but could go as high as $93 costing $43 billion.
“Every single job in renewables is subsidised to the tune of $200,000,” he said.
Queensland LNP speaker Rohan McPhee said the purpose of the motion had been misconstrued.
“We’re not calling for the federal government to go out and start paying for wind farms in regional towns,” he said.
“This is just encouraging innovation and investment in renewable energy.
“Whether or not you believe in climate change – and we can debate that for days – but the fact of the matter is the world consensus is it’s here and whether we like it or not we have to get with the program.
“We’re going to be left behind.
“Australia has such a great landscape for innovation in this area we’ve got so much space – we’ve got sun and wind and we’ve got so much potential to develop new technologies in the renewable energy sector.
“It’s a global market and the renewable energy market is growing every day for new technology.
“The fear I have is that if we don’t support this motion we don’t send a message to potential businesses that can grow and innovate new technology and we get left behind.”
An obvious battle for common sense there, but, thankfully they got there in the end. STT always cringes when arguments are peppered with nineties-inanities like “proactive” and “sustainable”. It’s a sign that the protagonist hasn’t really got anything to say, but is keen to be heard, just the same.
The ‘meat and potatoes’, was helpfully dished up by long-time STT Champion, Ron Boswell and relative new-comer, Keith Pitt.
Ron targeting the cost of the wind power debacle to real, productive industries; and Keith Pitt ripping into the insane cost of the single largest corporate welfare scheme ever devised.
Keith Pitt – an electrical engineer – gets it. His speech to Parliament back in June is clearly worth a re-run. Here it is.
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (18:34): I will not be supporting the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015 that is currently before the Australian parliament. In my view, the renewable energy target—the RET, the deal the coalition has been forced into with Labor—will achieve only three things. It will increase the cost of electricity for those who can least afford it, Australian taxpayers will have spent billions of dollars subsidising private enterprise, and, come 2020, environmentalists will have little more to show for it than a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Let me explain. When I entered parliament in 2013 I was still a registered professional electrical engineer in the state of Queensland, and I promised to be a common-sense voice for the people of Hinkler and regional Australia. Over the past 18 months the issue raised most often with my office has been the spiralling cost of electricity—and for good reason. The median personal income in Hinkler is just $411 a week—just $411. A substantial number of pensioners call Hinkler home, and we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Unfortunately, many of Hinkler’s major employers are making workforce decisions based on the cost of energy—local foundries, farmers and manufacturers all say their overheads are rising at an unsustainable rate. Any relief businesses and households might have felt with the repeal of Labor’s carbon tax quickly turned to dismay when Queensland electricity retailers substantially increased their tariffs. The end result was a net price increase of about five per cent. It is no coincidence that in 2013-14 the number of households in regional Queensland disconnected for debt or non-payment rose 87 per cent to 12,454. The Fraser Coast Chronicle last week reported that the local Meals on Wheels electricity bill jumped from $5,700 to $12,200 in just one year. The not-for-profit organisation says it has only two choices if it is to remain viable: to either increase the price of the meals or find $85,000 to buy solar panels.
What is the solution? I have heard politicians on both sides tell people to shop around for the best rate. That might be possible in the capital cities, but there is generally only one retailer in most regional communities. The lack of market competition will only worsen if the Queensland Labor government proceeds with its plan to merge state-owned corporations Ergon, Energex and Powerlink. The merger, combined with already high electricity prices, falling energy consumption and the renewable energy target, will result in substantial job losses in the energy sector. We heard a lot from the Electrical Trades Union during the January 2015 state election, but why aren’t they out there actively fighting for their members’ jobs right now?
In his second reading speech to this bill, the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, said the renewable energy target introduced by the Rudd government resulted in:
… new subsidised capacity … being forced into an oversupplied electricity market …
I appreciate the government is trying to put the RET on a sustainable footing, but, in my view, this current legislation will still result in an increase in power prices, paid for by the people who can least afford it. Australians are using less electricity now than they were 10 years ago. The AEMO Electricity statement of opportunities report in August 2014 stated:
More than 7,500 MW would need to be removed from the market to affect supply-adequacy in 2014-15.
There is potentially between 7,650 MW and 8,950 MW of surplus capacity across the NEM in 2014-15.
Under any risk scenario, no additional capacity is required for at least 10 years. It also states that approximately 90 per cent of this excess is in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Furthermore: As operational consumption grows, the level of surplus capacity decreases. However, even with 10 years of consumption growth, by 2023-24 between 1,100 MW and 3,100 MW of capacity could still be withdrawn from each of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria without breaching the reliability standard.
The problem is that forecast consumption is expected to fall by 1.1 per cent per year at a minimum.
Current renewable technologies like wind and solar do not reliably generate power on a constant basis, and so the baseload coal or gas fired power stations still have to maintain capacity for peak use times when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. Most of that peak occurs in the evening, after dark and, in many locations, when it is calm. Without some type of affordable storage system, there is no option but to maintain baseload power, and that will continue to force up the price of electricity. Put simply, if your running costs remain the same and you are selling less product, the next logical step is to increase the price of the product to be able to maintain your operations.
However, the Australian Energy Regulator, the AER, has advised of its plans to restrict Ergon Energy’s proposed revenue by 27 per cent over the next five years, well below the $8.24 billion that Ergon requested. The measure is expected to save Ergon customers between $16 and $44 in network charges on their bills each year. The savings would have been substantially higher if not for the exorbitant feed-in tariff offered to solar users by the former Queensland Labor government. In very simple terms, the AER makes its decisions based on how much the businesses need to spend delivering electricity prudently through the distribution network, putting an end to the so-called ‘gold-plating’ that occurred in the Beattie years. The AER says any costs above efficient levels are to be funded by the network owners and not the customers. On the one hand, federally we are trying to keep power prices down for consumers by reducing the operating expenses and revenue of electricity companies; but, on the other hand, our current environmental policies are inflating the price of electricity because, without baseload power, you have to start turning the lights off.
The public expects coal fired energy companies to maintain the same availability and readiness, but the renewable energy target encourages people to use more renewables in an already oversupplied market. To give you a simple example, I spoke with a pensioner in my electorate last week. He gets up in the middle of the night, each and every night, to turn off his refrigerator so he does not use as much electricity. He relies on his rooftop solar to power the fridge during the day, and he would rather risk food poisoning than run up an electricity bill that he cannot afford to pay.
I would support the move towards renewable energy if wind, solar and battery technology actually worked—meaning if it were capable of reliably supplying electricity during peak periods to replace traditional baseload power generators. Plus, the cost at this point in time is astronomical.
Under this bill, $15 billion will be spent over the next five years on infrastructure that will run concurrently with coal fired generators, supplying into a market that is excessively supplied. Broad estimates by the department indicate that renewable energy certificates from 2015 to 2030, at an average of $47 per certificate, will cost $24 billion. If the RECs are allowed to reach penalty at $93, the cost to users will be $43 billion. Can you imagine the response if we went to the Australian people and said they needed to contribute an additional $43 billion through their electricity pricing as a surcharge? To meet the target, Australia will need to build as many renewable generators in five years as we have built over the past 15—all of which will need to be replaced in the short to medium term, when the technology outdates and the equipment deteriorates. Putting aside the cost of building the infrastructure, renewable energy is extremely expensive to generate. Coal fired power costs about $36 per megawatt hour to produce, compared to $190 per megawatt hour for solar and up to $120 for wind. If renewable energy were a sound investment, governments would not need to subsidise private businesses with renewable energy certificates.
I find it absurd that we on the conservative side of politics have abandoned the stated belief in the free market to reach a deal with Labor. Labor’s recalcitrance will only hurt the very people they always purport to represent, and that is the poor. The Coalition’s Direct Action Plan costs around $14.50 per tonne of carbon abated at its first auction. That is compared to $25 under Labor’s carbon tax and a whopping $95 to $175 per tonne of carbon abated through the renewable energy target for the small systems scheme. Rather than subsidising jobs in private renewable energy businesses to the tune of almost $200,000 each over the period 2015 to 2030, we should be spending taxpayers’ funds on research to advance renewable technologies that have real promise—growing our fuel, finding cheap and effective storage sources and ensuring ongoing jobs in Australian manufacturing through competitive energy pricing. The enormous buckets of money thrown at renewable research by Labor was haphazard and predominantly unsuccessful in large-scale trials.
I have personally worked in hydro power stations that have been operational for more than 50 years and they will continue to work into the future. These plants provide a multiplying effect into the local economy, providing water storage, generating capacity and long-term infrastructure with real benefits. They are a true renewable, with their energy source replenished every time it rains. The greatest of these installations is, of course, the Snowy hydro scheme. Hydros can be used as peakers. They are flexible and can be run up quickly, and at night, when there is no wind or sun, they still work.
If you really want to do something about emissions, we need to be having a proper debate about zero-emission next-generation nuclear technology. If you want renewables, we should consider growing the fuel source. Spend money on research for natural fuel sources such as biomass, where every year 100 per cent of the fuel supply can be regrown, providing long-term jobs. There is a proposal floating around for loans for irrigators to install solar pumps. Unfortunately, they will only be able to irrigate when the sun is shining—and it is back to the bad old days of watering in the middle of the day, when evaporation is at its highest. All of those years of water-use efficiency and capital installation down the drain. Typically, irrigation only occurs during times of low rainfall and drought, when water is scarce, but it is either be killed by electricity bills or invest in capital.
The public perception is that we have not done enough with respect to renewable energy. In fact, there was a large amount of capacity before the target was even set. The price of installing rooftop PV solar has fallen substantially. In terms of installed capacity, that is, gigawatts, rather than generation, that is, gigawatt hours, coal is currently only providing around 50 per cent of the energy mix. To even come close to meeting the target set in this bill, around 1,500 to 2,000 wind turbines would need to be built. Wind turbines are intrusive, ineffectual and always best placed in your neighbour’s property, and out of view of your own. The remaining sites capable of having any chance of even 30 per cent utilisation for wind turbines are very limited, because you need a location where the wind blows consistently, of which there are not that many. And it should be close to where the energy is used.
Do I honestly think they can install the capacity needed to meet the reduced target? My answer is no. We will be back having this debate again in two or three years’ time, when it becomes apparent that even huge subsidies will not be enough to get sufficient facilities built. If you want to subsidise businesses, subsidise exporters that create long-term jobs. Do not subsidise businesses that devalue and destroy assets already predominantly owned by the taxpayer.
Every business owner in my electorate would like to have the upper hand against their competitors. They would love to receive a guaranteed price for the products they produce, regardless of need, subsidised by someone else. If—and I say if—Australia meets its 2020 renewable energy target, it will not be because we have created an economically self-sustaining, reliable source of renewable energy. People will be using less coal-fired electricity for one reason only: they simply cannot afford it.
Hansard, 2 June 2015