Has Australia’s Nuclear Debate Killed Renewable Vitality Funding? • Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Expectations that the next Aussie administration will back nuclear over renewables appears to have wrecked attempts to attract private renewable investment.

Coalition opposes Australia tripling renewable energy, backs nuclear power pledge at Cop28

Ted O’Brien declares global climate summit ‘the nuclear Cop’ despite only 11% of nations backing the pledge

Adam Morton in Dubai @adamlmortonSun 10 Dec 2023 09.41 AEDT

The federal Coalition has declared at the Cop28 climate summit that it will back a global pledge to triple nuclear energy if the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, becomes prime minister, but will not support Australia tripling its renewable energy.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference in Dubai, the opposition’s climate change and energy spokesperson, Ted O’Brien, also said a Coalition government would consider supporting Generation III+ large-scale nuclear reactors, and not just the unproven small modular reactors it has strongly touted.

The statement at the global summit confirmed the Coalition was on a markedly different path to Labor. The Albanese government last week joined more than 120 countries in backing a pledge to triple renewable energy and double the rate of energy efficiency by 2030, but did not sign up with 22 countries that supported tripling nuclear power by 2050.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/dec/10/coalition-tells-cop28-it-will-tback-tripling-of-nuclear-energy-if-peter-dutton-becomes-prime-minister

Opposition backing for nuclear energy appears to have triggered a desperate Aussie government attempt to rescue their Net Zero dreams by bankrolling them with government money. But the current green Aussie government has no hope of providing the level of funding they anticipated would be provided by private investors.

Industry and states welcome Albanese government’s plan to jump-start stalled renewables investment

Albanese government’s expansion of investment scheme is designed to attract financial investment in new wind and solar farms

Peter Hannam Thu 23 Nov 2023 16.05 AEDT

The Albanese government’s plan to turbo-charge the development of renewable energy has been described as a “landmark” policy for the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels and has been broadly welcomed by industry and state governments.

The energy minister, Chris Bowen, revealed a capacity investment scheme originally aimed to support 6GW of batteries and other storage would be expanded to 32GW. Of that total, 23GW would be for new wind and solar farms, with 9GW for storage.

The scheme’s cost is uncertain. Tenders held every six months over four years will set strike prices. Should market prices exceed a ceiling, the commonwealth could make money, and if they fall below a floor, taxpayers would have to make up the difference.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/nov/23/albanese-government-renewable-energy-investment-scheme

To add to the farce, there is growing evidence Australia’s grid is falling apart, due to instability created by the renewables which have been installed to date. Residents of NSW, Australia’s most populous state, have just been told to ration electricity (h/t observa)

‘What a farce’: NSW residents told to ration electricity

“We are asking households and businesses to think about what they can defer between 5pm and 9pm tonight,” NSW Energy and Climate Change Minister Penny Sharpe said during a media conference.

“If you can turn your air conditioning up a little bit, over about 24 is fantastic.” 

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/other/what-a-farce-nsw-residents-told-to-ration-electricity/ar-AA1luu25

What are we to make of this?

I’m appalled by Australia’s mainstream conservative opposition pandering to climate crisis narratives. I don’t think talking up nuclear Net Zero is doing Aussie conservatives any favours at the ballot box. Even a nuclear Net Zero push would add to the cost of energy, at a time Aussies are already reeling from skyrocketing energy bills. The left wing greens who currently run the government might have won by promoting wildly inaccurate assurances about how renewables would reduce energy bills, but at least they understood that the core voter priority is reducing energy bills.

But Aussie conservative opposition support for a nuclear energy has wrecked government attempts to attract private renewable investment. Private renewable investment makes no sense, if opposition politicians, who have a real chance of winning the next election, have committed to destroying the value of those investments by prioritising nuclear energy when they win government.

The opposition success in collapsing the Australian Government’s hopes for private participation in green energy programmes is a lesson we can all learn from.

Could US Republicans use a nuclear push to wreck Biden’s private green investment dreams, without copying Australia’s shameful pandering to Net Zero narratives?

There is a way.

In 2017, then energy secretary Rick Perry proposed resilience payments for generators which could maintain power output for a minimum of 90 days, if their fuel supply was disrupted.

At the time the plan was shot down by regulators, and also attracted lukewarm responses from libertarian organisations which were discomforted by yet another energy market intervention.

But resurrecting this policy, at least in principle, would have an immediate chilling effect on all Biden’s green energy programmes – especially if there was also an announced intention to investigate green federal loan guarantees, and whether they were granted improperly by the Biden administration – and a promise that if guarantees were improperly granted, banks would be liable for any losses.

A 90 day resilience requirement, if implemented, would make renewables impossibly expensive – any wind or solar installation would have to be backed by 90 days of battery capacity, or have an ironclad agreement for 90 days of replacement power with a hydro, gas or coal plant, including demonstrable fuel reserves. Renewable operators would have to buy lots of coal to fulfil this requirement.

Even the threat of such a regime in the near future would stall Biden’s green energy plans, just as Australia’s green energy private investment plans have been stalled by opposition threats of a switch to nuclear.

If the Republicans commit to sabotaging Biden’s green energy transition by announcing energy policies which would kill renewables, they might save the United States a heap of federal money which might otherwise still be squandered by the Biden administration under existing programmes put in place by the previous Democrat congress.

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