Australian energy policy vacuum beyond 2020 officially confirmed


From pv magazine Australia.

An energy policy vacuum in Australia beyond 2020 is now looking inevitable, with the baseload-focused reliability guarantee the sole remaining piece of the shelved National Energy Guarantee the Coalition government is hanging onto.

Addressing parliament last week, Energy Minister Angus Taylor confirmed the new Scott Morrison government will not be replacing the Renewable Energy Target (RET) “with anything“ when it expires in 2020.

“The truth of the matter is, the renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020. It reaches its peak in 2020 and we won’t be replacing that with anything,“ said Taylor, answering a question from MP Adam Bandt.

According to the minister, no policy is needed beyond 2020 because the 26% emissions reduction target will be reached without additional intervention.

The official announcement came alongside Taylor’s column for the Australian Financial Review, published last week, in which he declared: “emissions reductions are the least of our problems, with every prospect we will reach the 26% reduction below 2005 levels ahead of schedule and without interventions”.

‘Renewables are driving up prices'

That view is in strong opposition to recent findings that suggest Australia remains on track to miss its Paris climate targets. According to the latest assessment from consultancy NDEVR Environmental, Australia is poised to emit nearly 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide above the Paris trajectory, with record-breaking emissions for a third year in a row.

In his column, Taylor reiterates the often heard claims by conservative MPs that renewables are behind the grid instability and electricity price increases experienced in recent years.

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“The renewable energy targets in Victoria, Queensland and the ACT [Australian Capital Territory] are dramatically worsening the situation, with unprecedented additions of intermittent wind and solar putting pressure on reliable baseload generators to exit,” Taylor writes, adding that given its 50% RET, South Australia now has among the highest prices in the world and poor reliability.

‘New emissions targets would wreck economy'

But, in the words of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Statement of Opportunities, it is the reduced reliability of ageing fossil fuel generators that is heightening the risk of power failure. What is more, renewables are emerging as a solution to grid balancing.

As outlined in the latest report from Deloitte, solar and wind have demonstrated the ability to strengthen grid resilience and reliability, as they have the ability to provide essential grid services – through applications such as ‘synthetic inertia' – while placing downward pressure on electricity prices.

However for the Australian energy minister, renewables spell trouble. “The situation is dire enough without interventions that will drive up prices and drive down reliability by prematurely driving out coal and gas,“ he wrote. 

Noting the Coalition won't accept opposition Labor's 45% Emissions Reduction Target and 50% RET, Taylor stated: “Their plan to take the failed South Australian experiment national will take a wrecking ball to our economy.”

The true economic blow is, however, set to come from the lack of a renewable energy target beyond 2020, and policy settings that can drive investment in new generation, putting a whole industry at risk.

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