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Jan 29, 2014

Will Abbott appoint an IPA man to a renewables review?

Talk in Canberra is the government is poised to appoint a leading anti-wind and anti-solar campaigner from the IPA to a new panel to review the renewable energy target. It spells disaster for the sector.

The renewable energy industry in Australia might be tempted to pack their bags and find another country to conduct their business if the latest talk in Canberra is true: sources say that the Abbott government will name Alan Moran, an anti-renewable zealot from the Institute of Public Affairs, to a new panel that will review the Renewable Energy Target.

According to sources, Moran will be one of three or four business people appointed to an “independent” panel that will get secretarial support from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet — rather than departments for the environment or industry, which includes responsibility for energy.

If true, that will ensure that the panel is closely monitored by Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s inner core, who include the climate change contrarion and anti-wind advocate Maurice Newman — his chief business advisor — and others from the conservative hard-right who neither accept the science of climate change nor the attraction of renewable energy.

And if true, it will shape up as a disaster for the renewable energy industry in Australia, which has already ground to a halt because of policy uncertainty, and which could face not just the possibility of the RET being diluted, but removed altogether. The Abbott government is insisting on another review of the supposed health impacts of wind farms, despite not releasing a report from its main medical body, and there is also talk that the government support for rooftop solar will also be removed.

Moran has famously hard-nosed views about renewables, and wind and solar in particular. In a panel discussion at Clean Energy Week in 2012, even former senator Nick Minchin, the man who orchestrated Abbott’s rise to power and the scrapping of bipartisan climate policy, said Moran made him “look like a pinko”.

Moran, like others from the IPA, including former head and now WA Energy Minister Mike Nahan, believe wind and solar don’t work, don’t cause abatement, and need like-for-like fossil fuel backup and constant spinning reserve, a myth that is repeated ad nauseum by conservative commentators.

When asked, in 2012, of his vision of the future, Moran’s response was to look 50 years into the past. “We had communism then, we got the Greens now,” he grumbled. He said the energy profile in the 1960s was not much different from today, and “I expect that will continue into the future”.

Moran, who is the head of the IPA’s deregulation unit, was one of the main speakers at a poorly attended anti-wind rally in Canberra, which described the RET as a fraud. He described wind and solar as costly and “low quality”, said their costs were amplified by the need for backup in terms of fast-start conventional businesses, and were “imposing a huge burden on consumers and businesses”.

Abbott has been adopting many of these lines in his recent talking points. As has Newman.

Last week, Moran wrote an opinion piece in The Australian Financial Review titled “Renewable energy sources are just a power failure”. He said the support of renewables entails “crippling subsidies paid by consumers and businesses”, accusing the RET of playing a role in the foreshadowed plant closures of Holden, Electrolux and the aluminium smelters at Kurri Kurri and Point Henry.

RenewEconomy sought comment from the government, but was told only that the RET review details would be announced soon. “The government is committed to the RET and our policy has not changed,” a spokesperson said, emphasising the government is also committed to lowering the cost of electricity.

The details of the RET review had been due to be released before Christmas, but appear to have been derailed because it was unable to dissolve the Climate Change Authority — which conducted the last RET review and found in favour of the renewables industry — which has a statutory requirement to conduct the next review. That may have made it difficult for the government to appoint the Productivity Commission, as some in cabinet had urged. The creation of a panel is a potential way around that, even though the government is not obliged to adopt the CCA recommendations.

Many of Moran’s claims are wrong. South Australia now has more than 31% of its demand sourced from wind and solar, without the need for any new backup generation. The state’s wholesale cost of electricity, and its emissions profile, have fallen sharply.

There was one very revealing moment in Moran’s comments to the renewables industry in 2012. Moran had predicted that renewables such as wind and solar would account for just 1% of global energy by 2050 — less than they do now. But in what must have been a Freudian slip, he acknowledged there was a “slim chance” that a global accord to fight climate change could be implemented — in which case, he said, “there would be 60-70% renewables”.

*This article was originally published at RenewEconomy

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17 thoughts on “Will Abbott appoint an IPA man to a renewables review?

  1. Mark Duffett

    Moran is wrong that “the energy profile in the 1960s was not much different from today”. Renewables have actually gone significantly backwards since then:

  2. Scott

    “South Australia now has more than 31% of its demand sourced from wind and solar, without the need for any new backup generation”

    The reason it doesn’t need backup generation is due to fact it can import “brown coal” energy from Victoria. Over 2012-2013, it imported 13% of its energy needs from Victoria.
    At the end of the day, someone has to provide the backup. If it’s not SA, it will be someone else.

  3. klewso

    I want to know what Abbott and his sponsors are going to do if/when the institutionalising of his/their ideology goes wrong?

  4. Honest Johnny

    The energy market is already skewed in favour of the large producers. My house produces twice as much electricity than we use, however we are forced to buy (at night) at prices 4 times more than what the electricity producers pay us for our excess during daytime peak periods. Maybe Moran can help level the playing field. Did that sound overly optimistic?

  5. Andybob

    Issues regarding renewables have become depressingly partisan. This is partly because of the money at stake and partly because both ‘sides’ rely on specious special pleading and ad hominem attacks to support their positions.

    The wind industry has spoilt the renewable brand by repeatedly giving short shrift to legitimate complaints of nuisance instead of constructively engaging in harm reduction. That has created a reservoir of suspicion and discontent in rural Australia which is fertile ground for each and every anti-global warming and anti-renewable conspiracy theory.

    It is now almost impossible to find anyone trusted enough by both renewables advocates and critics to conduct an independent review that might stand a chance of having influence. Instead we face the depressing prospect of continuous policy fluctuation as each change of government results in successive reviews making predetermined findings according to the prejudices of their political masters.

  6. Dogs breakfast

    What, no mention of the subsidies that are paid to the air-conditioned McMansion owners who overload the system on hot days and are responsible for some 20-25% of the average electricity bill, just to ensure supply on those 2 to 5 days a year?

    Giles, didn’t he mention anything about those subsidies? Didn’t he mention anything about how solar has reduced the number and severity of those peak events, where electricity wholesale prices peak at multiples of 10, 20 and 50 (100s?) times the standard non-peak Kwh hour price, making a complete mockery of a ‘market solution’.

    It didn’t get a mention? Get outta here!!!

  7. AR

    Why the surprise? The IPA wrote the nearest thing the tories have as a “to do list” which it is systematically ticking off.
    Why would it also be the source of new recruits? Not as if the current crop of Rodent retreads have a spark of IQ between them.
    Trust Duffer above to leap in first with the counterfact. My puzzlement is not “where” he finds them but “why”? What is the deep psychological need he’s trying to assuage?

  8. tonyfunnywalker

    Scott- how may homes were blacked out in Victoria during last weeks heatwave- may for a week – how many people died due to heat related reasons? How many homes were blacked out in SA last week NONE. Victoria, the polluters State has 19th century generation technology meeting 21st century needs – Climate Change aside. Lignite coupled with ageing generators means a 30% efficiency whereas PV solar creates its own efficiency at its free ( well almost ) when its needed most.
    The sooner we fire this moron of a government the better as they were not elected just be serve the vested interests of the IPA.
    I have my PV solar thanks and I love my electricity bills since I installed it. Both my wife and I are ageing and of fragile health – so rather than worry about the cost when the AC is on – at least I have a new and welcome peace of mind. If anyone thinks repealing the carbon tax will cut you electricity bill think again – its just a con like most of Abbott’s ideas. I refrain using the word policies as they are abdicated to cronies and has beens’ and Abbott Government is the government of nothing but a wanton destruction of our society especially if you are old, disabled, young families with children, unemployed, disadvantaged. The next election will not be soon enough.

  9. JohnB

    Playing the man, I see.
    The man speaks the truth and the difference is due to the reduced percentage of hydro in the system. Other parts have grown since the Snowy scheme, but not much hydro has been added.

    As a percentage of energy delivered, neither solar nor wind have made up for the declining energy share represented by hydro.

    So, renewables are going backwards in our energy mix.

    Understand now?

    Its time for an apology to MD. Are you man enough to do so?

  10. Jimmyhaz

    You know I was cautiously optimistic about this government when they were first elected, I honestly believed that they would be able to grow into something resembling a decent government.

    The more I read about them, however, the more I realise that they are a bunch of baboons so blinded by their ridiculous ideology that they are not fit to run my local lemonade stall, let alone a country like Australia.

    What is so difficult about realising that they are elected to represent the best interests of all Australians? Not those who voted for them, not the business interests that backed their campaigns, not the media that became a farce for them, but everyone.

    This government is going to go down as the worst in Australia’s history to date, the only plus is that they will be a one-term government.