1 year ago




48 SENATE Tuesday, 14 February 2017 here and wave lumps of coal around and laugh and joke as if there is no climate crisis in the world when overwhelmingly climate scientists are telling us there is a climate crisis. We have to act. There is a moral imperative on us to act. In the meantime, the economists are telling us the least-cost way to bring emissions down is to put a price on carbon. Yet in a shocking example of what Peta Credlin recently described as 'retail politics' we saw a campaign against a price on carbon waged by Tony Abbott. Shame on him. He makes me sick, too. Every single one of them make me sick. I say to future generations: I am so, so sorry for what our generation is doing to you today. I am so sorry for the fact that your lives are going to be compromised by our greed today. I am so, so sorry that, as a whole, our generation has completely stuffed up this issue. We collectively are still failing the future. I apologise humbly to our children, our grandchildren and the billions of disadvantaged people around the world who are going to be impacted by climate change. Senator BACK (Western Australia) (16:27): I do not intend to be ridiculed in this place by this gentleman, Senator McKim. When the science suits him, he is all over it like a dirty shirt. But, when it does not suit him, he seeks to ridicule. When it suits him to be talking about Australia only, he has one attitude. When you take the worldwide circumstance—and, of course, the climate does affect the entire world—he refuses to accept the facts of the science. So I will put a few of them on the record for him. I have figures from the Grantham Institute and the International Energy Agency on annual comparative emission savings in carbon dioxide equivalents. By China upgrading the standard of its power stations and moving to high-energy low-emission coal it is saving some 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. All of the actions combined of the EU and their supposed emissions trading scheme have been able to achieve 25 million tonnes per annum—one-sixteenth of 400 million tonnes. Who has the greatest quantity of high-energy low-emission coal? It is Australia. If Australia did nothing else but ensure the sale of our high-energy lowemission coal to China to replace their low-energy high-emitting coal, we would be doing the world the greatest service. We only produce 1.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases ourselves. Let me just contrast, for those who might be listening, the difference between those which are modern, highly efficient coal-producing power stations and those which are not. I take a new power station in Shanghai and the Yallourn power station in Victoria: the capacity of the Shanghai station is 2000 megawatts, that of Yallourn, 1450. The efficiency of production, as measured by the percentage of coal becoming electricity, in that Shanghai power station is 46.5 per cent, or just under 50; that of Yallourn, 28 or just over a quarter. The amount of carbon dioxide produced per annum by the Shanghai plant is just under 2 million tonnes; that of Yallourn 15 million tonnes. The workforce required to operate the plant in Shanghai is 265 people, as opposed to 500 at Yallourn. Face it: these are the figures. We have now in China alone 580 coal-powered stations producing electricity and their underconstruction plan is for another 575. I am a supporter of renewables: I am a supporter of wave power; I am a supporter of a re-examination of tidal power; I have always been a supporter of solar energy. I do not know the cost of storage yet, because nobody has done the figures and that is despite my pleas for our government to engage the Productivity Commission to look at this. I do not know yet about the safety of mass storage. I, for one, am very confident of the future of solarpowered energy. Everybody in this place knows what a rort industrial wind turbines are—$900,000 of taxpayer subsidy per turbine per year before it generates one unit of electricity. Don't talk to me about rorts and subsidies, Senator McKim. How long will that take? Probably 15 years of operation before an industrial wind turbine produces a positive result in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. Yes, it is a vexed question and, yes, it is the responsibility of governments to ensure reliable, affordable power. Yes, the South Australian government has failed; yes, the Victorian government will fail; yes, the Queensland government is on a trajectory to fail; and yes, Mr Shorten is on a trajectory to fail. Our responsibility is to ensure energy security. Senator McALLISTER (New South Wales—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (16:32): Since Christmas the government has sought to pursue, as Senator McKim said, retail politics around energy. All it has revealed is just how terribly out of step the government is on questions of climate change and on questions of energy transformation. The Liberal Party seems to think that this is a joke, with the Treasurer passing coal around in parliament the day before we experienced some of the most extreme weather conditions we have seen in the history of my state of New South Wales. It is more than a joke; it is in fact an insult. Their old coalition partners, the National Party, seem to think that climate change is fiction, and certainly their new coalition partners, One Nation—the new people they have got into bed with—seem to think it is fiction too. Senator Roberts takes every opportunity in this place to brandish his dossier of 'empirical evidence', which he claims, contrary to the views of scientists all around the world, proves that climate change does not exist. Just today we heard more remarks from the Minister for CHAMBER

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 SENATE 49 Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan, whose unqualified support for coal in any form really betrays his absolute contempt for climate change as a serious issue that we need to address. Apart from various right-wing commentators in our newspapers, nobody else actually agrees with them. The academic, the scientific, the not-for-profit and corporate sectors all agree that we need serious action on climate change. This month the BCA and the AIG, those radical socialist organisations, indicated in a joint statement that: Australia needs a suite of durable post 2020 climate change policies integrated with broader energy policy and capable of delivering Australia's emissions reduction targets, at lowest possible cost, while maintaining competitiveness and growing Australia's future economy. Sadly, there is absolutely no sign that a suite of policies of this kind is on the horizon under this government. It is to Australia's great detriment that this is so. Instead of addressing climate change in a sensible and pragmatic way, the government is using it as a proxy in its culture wars. The latest victim, of course, has been sensible energy policy. I do not particularly want to talk any further about that today; I want to spend my time talking about energy policy and setting out some of the challenges we face. It is not just the transition that we need to make to cleaner sources of energy, it is the broader systemic changes we need to make to accommodate emerging technological developments and to radically change consumer preferences. We will need a massive investment in energy infrastructure in the next couple of decades. The existing plant—the plant that was built largely by the public sector, I should add—is coming to the end of its life cycle. In fact, Senator Canavan correctly observed this a little earlier when he was talking about the smelter at Gladstone. Within a decade about half of Australia's coal-fuelled generation fleet will be over 40 years old, with some currently operating stations approaching 60 years of age. New South Wales faced blackouts on Friday for a range of reasons, but one of them was that two out of the four generators at one of its biggest power stations, Liddell, were out of commission. That is a power station that was built in the 1950s and refurbished in the 1970s. It is an indication of the challenges that come about when you are running a very old fleet. The lesson we ought to draw from that is that in fact we are going to need to make investments in new energy infrastructure, and it really does not matter what technology it is, because they are going to be quite expensive and they will incur costs for consumers. We need to come to grips with that and start enabling the circumstances that will allow us to make those investments in ways that are economically efficient and allow us to meet our emissions reduction objectives. In that light, there is a reason that industry is not interested in investing in clean coal: that the numbers do not add up. AIG wrote in a blog: …new-for-old replacement of our coal fleet does not look like a good solution for price, reliability or the environment. Electricity sector investors are unlikely to finance a new coal-fired power station in Australia again. It is a pretty unqualified position. Oliver Yates, the CEO of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation said he would not invest in ultra-supercritical coal plants because it would not be a good use of taxpayer funds. If clean coal was truly clean or truly effective, we would back it and, indeed, in government we did. We allocated significant resources when Labor was last in government to research carbon sequestration for coal fired generation. But the problem is that right now it is not cost-effective. A new ultra-supercritical coal station comes out, it is estimated by Bloomberg, somewhere between $134 and $203 per megawatt hour. That is significantly higher than the cost of new-build wind or the cost of new-build solar by a factor of almost two. The problem of course for supercritical coal is that it only really reduces emissions by a fraction of what our existing coal plants emit. If you really want to get coal fired generation down to being a genuine low-emission technology, you have to use carbon sequestration. And once you do that, it is certainly not the cheapest form of energy; it is one of the most expensive. One estimate from Renew Economy suggests that CCS in total comes out at about $352 per megawatt hour—that is, about three times more expensive than wind or solar. I would suggest to you that that is one of the more conservative estimates of the cost of carbon sequestration that I have seen. By contrast, renewables are expected to be cheaper than conventional coal within years, even without taking into account the cost of CCS. Over the past seven years, the cost of wind has dropped over 50 per cent and solar PV costs have dropped by over 80 per cent. Of course we are not just talking about our generation; we also talking about our transmission infrastructure. The great myth over the last decade was that it was renewables that caused price increases in the electricity sector when in fact it was the very great investment that we needed to make in network infrastructure that caused most of the cost increases for consumers. In fact, they accounted for 43 per cent of residential electricity prices in financial year 2015. What will be needed will be a much transformed transmission system that can cope with consumer preferences and with the technological developments which will see a much more diverse generation capability in our electricity system. In particular, we need to start looking at peak demand, the thing of course that drives the CHAMBER

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