Losing energy as Gillard spins

Business Spectator - Keith Orchison - 4.2.2011

The Prime Minister mentioned energy just once in her speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia earlier this week in Melbourne.
One of her ambitions, she said, was to drive a “clean energy economy.”
Later, she asserted a carbon price will “drive another sweeping technological revolution.”

Has Gillard, I wonder, read the Australian Energy Resource Assessment which her predecessor’s administration published last year?

Does the Prime Minister know that this report, the key building block for the energy white paper that the ALP promised in late 2007 but has yet to publish, projects that, by 2029-30, with power demand having risen to 366,000 gigawatt hours annually, about a third more than now, fossil-fuelled generation will still account for 80 per cent of electricity supply?

Is she aware that her own government’s forecast, therefore, is for coal-burning power stations to providing 157,000 GWh a year in 2030 versus about 200,000 GWh today?

Does Gillard appreciate that, with respect to greenhouse gases, every 2,000 MW of gas-fired baseload generation provided is equal to the construction of another Kogan Creek power station, the latest and most efficient coal-burning plant in Australia, commissioned in 2007? And that building about 20,000 MW of new baseload gas-fired generation to meet projected 2030 requirement is the equivalent, in emissions terms, of constructing 10 more Kogan Creeks?

Does she understand that her government – and those in New South Wales and Queensland, the two largest supply areas, now hugely dependent on black coal generation – has no plan at this time to sequester the fossil-fuelled plants’ emissions, no idea what this might cost and no areas identified for carbon dioxide burial?

Is she aware that, just to achieve her government’s target of reducing national emissions to five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, will require abatement to reach 144 million tonnes annually at the end of this decade and need, on its own modelling, a carbon price of at least $35 per tonne?

Does Gillard know that a carbon price of this level will see end-use power prices rise by more than 25 per cent before the impact of network charges and the renewable energy target are taken in to account?

Apart from using Hawker-Britton spin for effect on the day, Gillard’s pledge to deliver a “clean-energy economy” is meaningless unless all these issues are addressed. How will the carbon price she proposes drive “another sweeping technological revolution” when set against the best public advice on Australia’s energy future in the next two decades?

Does she understand that her government has no policies in place that will drive large-scale development of solar power or geothermal power? Or large-scale pursuit of end-use efficiency by business, the dominant (70 per cent) user of electricity?

The Hawke/Keating (and Howard) economic reforms on which Gillard bases her rhetoric were designed for, and delivered, results in the decade of their introduction.

Looking out two decades, what measures is she suggesting will deliver her “revolution”?

One last question: is there any chance at all that the Canberra Press Gallery, and others of the mainstream media commentariat, will actually challenge this latest piece of Julia Gillard’s spin in the light of the available information – or will they let it pass through unchallenged to weave its hoped-for spell on the voters?

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