Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s rejection of coal as an energy source for the future and a dig at Tony Abbott were met with smiles from Liberal politician Michael Sukkar on ABC’s Q&A on Monday.
Adorned in a ‘Vote Yes’ marriage equality t-shirt, Senator Hanson-Young was met with applause from the live audience after saying she believed renewable energy is “incredibly popular” throughout Australia.
“Australians get it. They want to be making energy out of the sun and the wind, but they also want to be able to store that and, you know, Michael is right – the wind isn’t blowing all the time, the sun is not shining all the time. But if you had the mix of it would work,” she said.
“You want to spend hundreds of millions, billions of dollars propping up the coal industry. Coal is dead. It’s dead in Australia, trying to keep these clunkers going, at huge public expense is just crazy.
“The only reason it’s happening is because Tony Abbott is in charge of your government’s energy policy and it’s time Malcolm Turnbull stood up to him and said, ‘Back in your box, Tony, we’re moving on with the future’.”
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) September 18, 2017
Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the federal government wanted affordable and reliable electricity, while ensuring it meets all climate targets.
“The reality is we do find ourselves in somewhat of a precarious position as we have transitioned away from very much carbon-intensive energy generation to more renewables,” he said.
“What we have seen happen is in some respects, some levels of government, particularly state governments that haven’t focused enough in ensuring we got baseload dispatchable power or we got storage and other things that complement renewable energy.
“The reality is we have seen a movement towards more renewables without much thought to how you store it, if any, to ensure that you do have the energy when you need it.”
Mr Sukkar said the Snowy Hydro Two scheme was an example of the government’s investment in ensuring “the storage, the back-up, that complements renewable energy”.
Opposition Leader in the Senate Penny Wong said she agreed with Mr Sukkar that Australia has an issue with “baseload or dispatchable supply”.
However, she said the issue has arisen due to about 4000 megawatts of power that exited the market under the current government.
“We had the majority of the plants that generate baseload supply beyond its design life. And we have had a lack of investment certainty,” Senator Wong said.
“And we haven’t had certainty because we have been in a political conflict for a decade and regrettably, you know, I was the climate minister when we were unable to get agreement through the Parliament.
“So if we’re going to resolve this, what we have to do is to set aside some of the wars that we have seen over the last decade, which really started when Tony Abbott tore down Malcolm Turnbull in 2009 as Leader of the Opposition, and come to a sensible bipartisan agreement that provides certainty to industries so we can get the investment that the country needs.
“That is the critical first step to making sure energy prices stabilise.”
CEO Investor Group on Climate Change Emma Herd said increasingly Australian businesses as well as households are pursuing renewables.
But she said this was not necessarily because they believe “coal is dead”, as Senator Hanson-Young had earlier claimed, nor because they are asserting an ideological position on climate change.
“Frequently they’re doing it because it’s cheaper to generate [renewable] energy on site, particularly if you’re in remote mining communities where you’re seeing increasing onsite solar generation than shipping in diesel.
“It’s no one size fitting all. It is multiple technologies, multiple sources and the market is deciding what they prefer.”