The federal government’s plan to transition the country to a greener, more sustainable energy future does so by propping up the industries that cost Australians more and drive climate change, experts warn.
On Thursday Energy Minister Angus Taylor released the long-awaited ‘technology investment roadmap’ outlining Australia’s energy priorities.
At the centre of the proposal is gas, which the government highlighted as a crucial energy source during the transition to renewable power over the next decade.
But a paper from the Climate Council revealed this week that gas is not just driving climate change, it is also the reason power prices on the east coast of Australia have been so high for the past few years.
Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said the federal government’s roadmap put the fossil-fuel industry before regular Australians.
“Now that Australia is exporting gas, gas prices are highly volatile, because they’re linked to oil prices. They’ve been one of the key reasons energy prices have gone up,” Ms McKenzie said.
Australia’s gas supply is made up of methane gas, which is up to 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term, she said.
“Gas, oil and coal are all made of somewhat similar stuff, they’re all fossil fuels.
“When you mine gas it’s often released into the atmosphere. Methane is highly polluting.”
Cost to the environment, and you
Bruce Robertson, an energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said Australians could expect to feel financial pain if the government went ahead with this transitional plan.
“It will cost us more. What essentially they’re doing is trying to prop up a failing industry. The Australian market is divided into two, the east coast cost is much higher and is currently in a lot of trouble.
“On the east coast, Santos has written off $7 billion since 2014. Origin has written off $3 billion on failed coal seam gas. They are failed investments. They haven’t fulfilled their export contracts.”
The government’s report considers a similar model to the US, but Mr Robertson said the US gas industry had not made a profit in 10 years.
“We are about to see a tidal wave of bankruptcies in US gas companies. We will see many more,” Mr Robertson said.
Ian Lowe, an Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University went further, saying the report was filled with outdated ‘misinformation’.
“The discussion paper rightly observes that ‘meaningful reductions in global emissions’ can be achieved by deploying low-emissions technologies,” Professor Lowe said.
“It also notes that solar and wind are already the cheapest forms of generation, but then incorrectly asserts that ‘there is still some way to go’ before these are competitive ‘when the full cost of storage and backup of electricity are built in’.
“In fact, the 2018 CSIRO/AEMO study found that solar and wind are much cheaper than new coal or gas power, even with enough storage to make them firm capacity.
“The delusion persists that we can continue to use coal and gas if we invest in the improbable deployment of carbon capture and storage.
“So far, all that has been captured and stored on a large scale by this technology is public money.”
Not only is the Australian government stuck on a path that would lead to higher electricity prices and more emissions, but the paper released on Tuesday is also similar to CSIRO report in 2017, said Tristan Edis, director of analysis & advisory at Green Energy Markets.
“It’s just regurgitating everything that was released in a report three years ago. They haven’t even changed the name.
“The one released in 2017 was called the Low Emissions Technology Road map. It’s much more detailed than what they’ve released today, but it outlines the same technologies.”