15 February 2023
For the record, I am energy agnostic.
But I know this much: we need to drastically increase the supply of energy, reliable energy, and not use outdated technology to connect and transmit it.
The Victorian Premier now thinks he has the answer – a return to the State Electricity Commission.
Having tripled the brown coal royalties in 2016 he signalled that coal, and its private companies, were not welcome. By setting the renewable energy target to 95 per cent by 2035, he put the final full stop in place.
One might think he has sat poised for this moment, having seemingly legislated the private industry out of the market, clearing the decks for a state-owned enterprise focused only on ‘renewables’.
He has excluded nuclear from what should be a broad portfolio of solutions.
The irrational Greens would even have us do away with gas. They clearly have no idea of the needs of certain industries where gas is required.
Jeff Kennett sold the SEC because of huge debt racked up by the original Guilty Party. The SEC was inefficient, and its buffer finances were ultimately tapped into by Cain and Kirner for ‘social dividends’. Of course, the price of power went up.
The rise and rise of energy bills is a modern case of madness in an energy rich nation – the wholesale price of electricity in Victoria is three times higher than a year ago. It will be 50 per cent higher this year and 50 per cent higher again in 2024.
Affordable warmth is already beyond many.
The green zealotry that has led to this problem is blind to reality – it does not read the dispatches from Europe. It’s a dream machine in overdrive: a carbon reduction religion that does not pray to the Gods of Reality or Common Sense.
As it is, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are in decline and now represent about 1 per cent of the world’s output. China’s increased by 11 per cent between 2015-21.
AGL’s closure of Loy Yang A in 2035, 10 years earlier than planned, will do diddly-squat for our emissions impact on the world. It will, however, remove 30 per cent of the state’s most reliable and cheap power.
In August last year, I again spoke in the Parliament of Victoria about the need to lift the moratorium on nuclear energy. It is a reliable zero-carbon emission technology – surely the holy grail of energy production? France certainly thinks so – with 14 new nuclear power plants promised by its President. Australia also has an abundant supply of uranium which we happily export.
But Victoria’s Energy Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, has described nuclear energy as a ‘stupid idea’ and worse, ‘dangerous’.
She is hand in hand with her federal counterpart, Chris Bowen, who now also seems hell-bent on taxing farting cows to achieve the methane reduction pledge he’s signed us up to.
With Victoria’s energy supplies about to splutter like Europe’s, I asked Minister D’Ambrosio to ‘scrap (her) prejudice and order a comprehensive review of future electricity generation policy, which starts with a genuinely blank slate’.
In doing that, she should also apply the same approach to the transmission lines that will be needed to connect ‘renewable’ energy projects across the state to the grid. As horse and carts go, the cart is well down the road and the horse has done a runner.
The proposed 190-kilometre Western Renewables Link will severely impact the livelihoods, amenities, fire safety, and environmental credentials of the region.
There is nothing ‘green’ about the 85-metre-tall transmission towers and their wires that AEMO has contracted AusNet to build.
The transmission line is earmarked as the first of 30 lines to crisscross regional Victoria. It is the prototype. What happens in the west will happen elsewhere but, of course, not inside the tram tracks of Melbourne, where the zero-emission howls are the loudest.
The Western Renewables Link might also represent the prototype for Australia.
It is interesting, then, that prior to November’s state election AusNet admitted it was now considering ‘undergrounding’ 4-5 kilometres of the line near Bacchus Marsh, at Darley, due to ‘the high visual impact’ the industrial overhead structures would have on the Wombat State Forest and the Lerderderg State Park.
This is great news.
But what of the other 185 kilometres of the project? The proposed line will be ugly in Darley – and it will be ugly for every other kilometre too.
AusNet has spent years trashing the serious arguments for undergrounding, it claims the cost is 16 times that of overhead transmission. Fuller studies put that figure closer to six times. Either way, it’s a lot of money. But what price the best environmental outcome?
It was an election worm on a hook – and locals are right to view it suspiciously. Raising the underground possibility at this point simply proves the project has been misconceived from the start. That’s code for cruelty, not kindness.
The gutsy locals behind Stop AusNet’s Towers have their legal gloves on. They are the real environmental warriors who believe ‘green’ power should be transmitted in the same vein.
Regional Australians should be watching this space.