Finkel delivers, but for what?

Do-Labor Malcolm is happy at the AFR:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says chief scientist Alan Finkel’s report on energy security will take the “ideology and politics” out of climate policy.

Dr Finkel will present his review to Mr Turnbull and premiers at COAG in Hobart on Friday.

The centrepiece of Dr Finkel’s report is his recommendation for the introduction of a technology-neutral Low Emissions Target or Clean Energy Target.

And it looks a reasonable outcome:

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will tell state and federal leaders on Friday that a clean energy target will have the lowest impact on power prices of any scheme, and will be cheaper than continuing to do nothing.

…Dr Finkel will also recommend that the operators of all large power generators, be they coal, gas or even large-scale renewable, must give three years’ notice before closing a facility. This is to avoid a repeat of the rapid announcement and closure of Victoria’s Hazlewood power station by French operator Engie earlier this year which took away one quarter of Victoria’s base-load power and is contributing to the new price hikes on July 1.

To improve stability of renewable energy, Dr Finkel will recommend new generation investment must have a degree of storage capacity such as batteries, or back-up generation capacity

…As revealed by The Australian Financial Review on Thursday, Dr Finkel now believes a clean energy target, also known as a Low Emissions Target (LET) is preferable to an Emissions Intensity Scheme (EIS) which was Labor’s preferred policy. It is believed this is partly because the high cost of gas means a potentially quicker phase out of coal fired power under an EIS would create stability problems because gas would be too expensive to replace coal and while renewable storage was still underdeveloped.

Under an EIS, polluting is free to a certain level above which penalties are imposed. Under a clean energy target, a certain percentage of energy each year must be generated from “low emissions” sources which would be technology agnostic. They would include renewable energy, gas and coal that uses carbon capture and storage technology, if it can be developed.

The government will adopt the recommendation for a clean energy target to operate from 2020 onwards but must decide what baseline to use. A baseline is the amount of carbon pollution per megawatt hour of power produced. Anything below that baseline constitutes a low emissions source.

But at The Australian, what’s it all for?

The most advanced new coal-fired power station, using “high-energy, low-emissions” tech­nol­ogy already in place in 750 power stations across Asia, would need a benchmark of at least 0.75 tonnes to qualify for the new scheme.

…Bill Shorten moved to exploit Coalition divisions over coal power yesterday by offering an “olive branch” to Mr Turnbull to support the energy reforms but only on the condition it discouraged coal power and imposed a price on carbon emissions.

“Unless it has a price signal on emissions, then it’s a waste of time,” the Opposition Leader said.

“But if there is a price signal on emissions, which ensures that we get investment going forward into new sustainable forms of energy, which doesn’t guarantee just repeated investment in new coal-fired power stations, then we think there’s a deal there to be done.”

Tony Abbott stepped up pressure on Mr Turnbull to ensure coal was included in a new scheme, saying he expected “plenty of discussion” about the issue in the Coalition partyroom. “The demonisation of coal is just wrong,” the former prime minister said.

Dr Finkel was adamant in his briefing that his “technology-­neutral” plan would not prefer one source of power over another, ­those close to the talks say.

Sadly the debate will now shift to the baseline which will either be high enough to incorporate coal to satisfy the loon pond and put everyone else off or low enough to satisfy Labor and the Greens and put the loons off.

I fear nothing has changed.


  1. There is no place in this country for any new coal powered generators. Its publicly, environmentally and internationally unacceptable. If this plan involves this, then all bets are off until its excised and re-mediated from the legislation.

    Just because the conservatives are signalling truce doesn’t mean it has to be accepted. This government is completely unsupported by current polling, has a one seat majority in the parliament, and does not command anything close to a working majority in the Senate. They have no right to think they by themselves, or their stupid media supporters, can decide the trajectory of the nation through the next 40 years. They have no mandate for anything but further negotiation.

    Deal with it.

  2. Wind energy going better today, averaging 1000MW from the installed capacity of 4395MW. If the country was reliant on this intermittent source then power dependent output would be wound back to 25% – not a smart way to operate an economy.

    The cost of installing storage or fast response fossil generation will make all existing intermittent sources uneconomic.

    The best option could be hanging farms on steroids (meaning CO2 enriched greenhouses) on the back end of every coal fired generator to provide carbon capture;

    • “If the country was reliant on this intermittent source then power dependent output would be wound back to 25% – not a smart way to operate an economy.”

      Why?? Is the sun not shining today? Are the Hydro Dams empty?

      • The sun is shining in some places. Predominantly in the northern hemisphere this time of year and most reliably over the Sahara desert. Solar in NSW peaked at 279MW today. It was zero at 8am and will be zero at 4pm. It will average 50MW over the 24 hour period. The statewide demand averages 8000MW so a few hours of cloudy sunshine with sun at low altitude is not of much value this time of year.

        Hydro dams in Australia would empty in a blink if that was the only source of on-demand supply. Australia is aptly named the dry continent.

        I run main loads off-grid and supply power to the grid at the top FIT so the price the poor pay for my power is a transfer payment in my favour. I make a surplus on total household energy. I know what off-grid power costs and the capital that is needed to supply a load from mid June to mid July. My concern is that higher electricity prices is killing industry in Australia and that makes the place third world with the accompanying civil issues.

  3. Yay ! More Solyndras ! More green cronyism. More free money for those feeding at the trough.. I’m sure global temperatures will drop thanks to Finkel !