(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

With its pending decision to build a new, wholly unnecessary fossil fuel electricity generation plant in the Hunter Valley, the Morrison government will turn its back on 30 years of economic history and re-embrace a role for the state in power generation -- something anathema to the Coalition at state and federal level for decades. In spending -- sorry, "investing" -- taxpayer money in an emissions-intensive gas-fired plant, the Morrison government will be a modern-dress version of a state government of the 1970s.

Scott Morrison and Angus "insert name of scandal here" Taylor's threat to intervene in the NSW power market and build their own gas plant may well have scared off private investors who might have invested in new capacity -- another chapter in this government's increasingly long history of deterring private investment. It also illustrates a trend around the world: fossil fuel generation is simply commercially unviable now.

The International Energy Agency -- a body closely allied to the interests of global energy companies -- demonstrated this in a simple chart last year. Compared to 2015, in 2019 state ownership of energy fell significantly around the world: from 40% to 36% in four years across all sectors, but by proportionately more in renewables where it was already low (18% to 14%), while in more monopoly-prone electricity networks, state ownership fell from 63% to 55% and from 44% to 41% in supply of gas and oil.