Down, but not out

The people have voted and the stage is set for a third term under Coalition rule. With its predilection for fossil fuels, the outlook for an orderly, rational transition to renewable energy may appear somewhat grim, but there is hope. There is clearly a rise in support for renewables among the community, business, councils and state governments.

“As usual business is way ahead of government and getting on with the job of transitioning the economy to a clean energy future,” Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes said, citing the commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy by big players including the Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, Bank of Australia and Atlassian.

“Big businesses are standing up, going to 100 per cent renewables. And financiers are backing renewable energy projects rather than plants that pollute.”

He also pointed out the economic rationality of the move to renewables given the rapidly declining cost of solar, storage and electric vehicles.

“We know that renewable energy delivers the cheapest electricity into the market and that renewable storage technologies like pumped hydro energy storage can provide market firming and be delivered at a significant discount. About 20 per cent lower than the average coal market spot price over a 12-month period.

“What this tells us is that economics wins. It is business, financing and the grass roots community that is driving the change,” John Grimes said.

However there is the prospect that the Morrison government will supply some kind of support to old coal fired power stations.

“People should demand that the market be left to its own devices. If we leave the market alone and stop providing artificial subsidies to coal plant operations they will exit the energy market due to unfavorable economics.

“Why would the taxpayer front up to pay more money to push up electricity prices?”

John Grimes said it makes no sense to keep polluting stations open and for a conservative government would be the greatest farce ever.

Oliver Yates who ran a strong campaign as an Independent candidate on a climate change and integrity ticket in the federal seat of Kooyong refuses to lose hope for renewable energy under the re-elected government.

Ever the pragmatist, he told Smart Energy “The economic rationality for renewables remains the same. They are cheaper.

“The need to accelerate the renewable energy industry has not gone away – every day it gets more urgent and there are more opportunities.

“Meanwhile people can clearly see the evidence of the impact of climate change on the environment which is becoming more extreme. The declining state of the Barrier Reef and the Menindee Lakes drought are among the casualties.

“These will continue to worsen, it won’t get any better. The trajectory is for more extreme climatic and environmental events.

“If people want to ignore the situation they can, but it won’t go away,” said Oliver Yates who has spoken to thousands of everyday people in suburban streets during the past three months and gained an insight into key concerns.

“People at the grass roots are recognising that climate change is significant,” he says.

More reactions on the shock election result were made by key organisations.

Ben Oquist from the Australia Institute says “The Government is different to what most people were expecting, but The Australia Institute's analysis of the new Senate was on the money and the Senate is where government policies can live or die.

“Do not forget it was the Senate that stopped Tony Abbott from gutting the RET and abolishing the CEFC and ARENA, protecting $23.4 billion worth of renewable energy investment.”

The Australia Institute (www.tai.org.au) is looking to ramp up its research capabilities to demonstrate that renewable energy is key to Australia’s economic growth and coal mining is not a jobs panacea. Instead with a change in the energy market rules the ceiling on renewable energy could be lifted, and drive down power costs.

TAI also plans to expose the “accounting trick” at the heart of meeting Australia's Paris target and end the corruption and maladministration of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The Australian Conservation Foundation issued a heartfelt statement reminding those in the community who care about climate action, especially concerned students, that progress is being made even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it.

“Investors are largely shunning new thermal coal projects. Renewable energy costs are falling rapidly. And more and more Australians are saying they are worried about climate change – even if that didn’t translate into votes in enough electorates at this federal election,” said chief executive officer Kelly O’Shanassy.

“It is a problem that the major political party that won this election did not put forward substantive climate change policies at the same time the scientific evidence is very clear that only a rapid transition, including halting the expansion of coal exploitation like the Adani mine, is needed to keep global warming at relatively safe levels.

“And it is a problem that the major political party that won this election did not put forward substantive nature protection policies just weeks after a landmark global scientific report warned biodiversity is declining at such a rapid rate it risks human society.

“At some point Australia must reconcile the action needed to halt the climate crisis and crash of nature with our deficient national plans and policies.”

The ACF is calling on all Australians – including the broader community, business, conservation groups, farmers and the re-elected Morrison government to address the deficit and approach environmental problems with reinvigorated and stronger action than is currently on the table.

Following the election outcome ANU Professor Frank Jotzo was among the first to pacify those disappointed by the result, reminding us that Australia’s business community does not want the economy to be stuck in the past, and saying there will be pressure from progressive states critical of the climate and energy policy void.

Further, the world will not carve out a niche for Australia to continue prospering as a 20th-century style high carbon economy, he says. Global demand for coal will fall. The future for our energy industries is in cheap renewable energy.

“We need to understand where the economic opportunities lie, we need a blueprint for a low-carbon energy and industrial system to encourage investors. And we will need to support the regions and communities where economic activity will dry up, particularly coal regions,” Jotzo wrote.

“With effective policy, things could be very different. We could build up an industry that produces green hydrogen, ammonia, aluminium and steel for export to countries less fortunate than Australia in their endowment with renewable energy opportunities.

“Those industries could grow larger than the coal and gas industry now is. They could last indefinitely and help the world decarbonise.

“The opportunities in the global shift to clean energy are compelling, and coal is not the future,” he wrote.