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Paris Accord Sits Uncomfortably With Aussies!

The entire range of headlines during the week we spent in Noosa centred around how the political elite would maintain “balance and stability” in power supply in the face of the planned closure in 2022 of the giant, and rickety coal-fired Liddell power station that provides between 10 and 20% of the NSW base-load.

This sounds like a normal sort of decision that any Government would make. But hold on a second – what the Turnbull Government is planning to do is to force the privately owned Liddell (by AGL – an American owned company) to undertake major renovations to enable it to stay open long into the future.

The net result of this is that the Federal Government will be unable to anywhere near meet its clean air target (CET) as proposed by its Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who just happens to setting the targets in accordance with the requirements of Australia’s commitment under the Paris Accord.  The need for power of any shape outweighs any concern about carbon induced climate change - that is a given!

Australia’s commitment to Paris is as flexible and empty as Donald Trump’s – the only difference is his avowed intention to “withdraw”. In the entire week I read both the Fairfax and Murdoch papers from end to end and found but one mention of Paris. Politically, any further risk to continuity of supply is intolerable to all parties, and coal remains king of the base-load sector.

Although there has been huge investment in alternative generation – we passed what appeared to be about a 20h solar panel farm on the outskirts of Noosa, there is simply no way that either wind, solar or storage can be accelerated sufficiently to replace existing base-load coal, no matter how insistent the Chief Scientist.

The air-conditioning demand during the height of last summer in both South Australia and Victoria resulted in substantial shortages leading to cuts that the average Australian (and I guess by extension, us!) find intolerable. Both States had closed major coal fired stations over the past two years, and NSW is determined not be caught in the same jam through closure of Liddell and hence the current row.

What is remarkable is the back-down by Turnbull follows him having accused his opposition of wanting to “socialise power companies”. In the face of AGL’s stated refusal to countenance continuation of Liddell, Turnbull is threatening a takeover – apparently, that falls short of socialism.

What I found remarkable was the universal insistence throughout the media on Turnbull following through with his threat – there was little sympathy for AGL whose decision had been long telegraphed, has major legal ramifcations, and which was based on the huge cost of the necessary upgrade, and its own estimate of coal’s uncertain future.

I do understand the dilemma facing the Australian Government – they simply do not have the percentage of hydro and geothermal base-load that we are fortunate enough to enjoy, but this in no way excuses the lack of foresight and planning that has led to the situation in which they now find themselves. Backing for that comes in a report revealed in today's Fairfax media by Prof. Andrew Blackers of ANU that reveals that only a tiny fraction of 22,000 dam avaialable sites throughout the country would be required to achieve 10% renewable energy.

It is simply that they have taken the easy way out provided by coal in the past, and remain unwilling to make the necessary investment at this point to meet their Paris commitments. Turnbull is about to face a major test in this regard with Liddell - watch this space!

And with Abbott on the come-back trail, Turnbull cannot afford to ignore his pitch to the dinasaur right - even as late as Sunday night in a widely watched interview he described climate chgange as:

"Very much a third order issue, and any attempt to wind back coal in favour of renewables is unconscionable."

He is prepared to cross the floor in Parliament to vote against any attempt to adopt the CET (Clean Energy Target) With back-benchers like him, Turnbull's problems with his independents are but minor.




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