My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 28 November 2017

by ray goodlass

New Finkel report shows government renewables war is built on lies

The headline almost writes itself: “Finkel backs Labor’s renewables policy”, for a report released last week, ‘The Role of Energy Storage in Australia’s Future Energy Supply Mix’ has found that Australia can reach 50% renewables by 2030 with limited impact on reliability.

It has, inevitably, lead to claims that Labor’s target of 50% renewables by 2030 is both achievable and correct (‘Shorten goes on the front foot over 50% renewables ‘target’’), which of course is not the case, and certainly not for the reasons Labor claims. And focusing on the politics that validate Labor’s plans would be missing the point.

The report, which though dubbed The Finkel Report, is in fact by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), explores how much energy storage, whether in batteries, pumped hydro or solar thermal we will need as we increasingly rely on renewables.

The ACOLA report finds that only a small amount of storage would be required to balance a system with 50% renewables.

One important aspect of the ACOLA report is that it brings into focus an unavoidable fact: Australia has serious problems with its electricity system. Certainly, system security, i.e. making sure that the system doesn’t break, is an immediate concern. Reliability, i.e. ensuring the system has enough power to meet demand is however a growing problem. And energy storage is a potential solution to both.

Our politicians need to focus on the substance of this debate, rather than the headlines. Hitting each other over the head because there are too many renewables in the policy basket is pointless and will ultimately prove self-defeating. Instead, we should focus on finding an actual policy solution noted David Blowers of the Grattan Institute

True, but the real problem that the new Finkel report shows is that Malcolm Turnbull’s war on renewables is built on lies, as Greens climate and energy spokesperson Adam Bandt MP quite rightly pointed out.

Mr Bandt said the report also highlights the need for the Greens’ policy of a national plan for energy storage, including a storage target and investment in the export opportunities of solar fuels.

The report reinforces that in the medium term, large amounts of renewable energy do not need large investments in storage, but that Australia risks losing out on export opportunities and more investment in renewables without a longer-term plan for the storage industry.

“The new Finkel report shows Turnbull’s war on renewables is built on lies,” Mr Bandt said.

It shows that the so-called ‘renewables problem’ the government’s NEG policy is seeking to fix is built on a fiction that recent investments in renewables require more storage to work.

This is further evidence of why COAG should have rejected the government’s National Energy Guarantee at its meeting last Friday, and put in place a real national climate and energy plan.

Mr Bandt went on to say “I have spent the last week in Bonn at the global climate negotiations. While other world leaders released a plan to get out of coal, Josh Frydenberg was hanging with Trump’s coal-huggers.”

Indeed, the new Finkel report also shows that Australia is missing in action on the solar fuels export market that is just taking off. With effectively more sun than any other country, we should be investing in solar and exporting it to the world as solar fuels, such as safe non-polluting hydrogen.

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