Natural gas now acknowledged as central to meeting energy supply challenges

September 7th, 2017

The merging of the East Coast gas supply crunch with the electricity price and reliability issue is now well established in the public discussion.

Political argument has linked the two and public commentary has comprehensively done so as well.

Gas supply and its role in the energy market has progressed to been seen as a key element in the energy price and security discussion – and the likely solution.

This has been plain in South Australia since the SA Government turned to gas to regain the reliability it lost when coal-fired power was decommissioned in favour of wind and solar.

Now the national awareness and discussion is catching up, as exemplified in some of the newspaper commentary in the past two days:

“Idiocy” said the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt, describing policy which allowed energy-rich Australia  to be so reliability poor that whole States could black out.

“Something has to give,” said former Productivity Commissioner Gary Banks.

“If it is not to be reliability, it will be affordability.”

On the same theme, The Australian published editorial comment headed “Renewable subsidies destroy national electricity advantage”.

“This is a mess, and it is serious,” it said.

“Australia has contrived to turn its cheap energy into a high-cost disadvantage that is coupled with unenviable doubts about energy security.

“Renewables subsidies have so distorted demand and supply behaviour in the grid that baseload investment is almost unthinkable. We need gas generation that can respond quickly to peaking demand.

“But just when the nation needs more gas investment, it has been hit by a cost and supply crisis caused primarily by state government restrictions on exploration and exploitation.  The extent of policy self harm in energy is staggering.”

To ensure it could not be accused of ‘coming late to the argument’, The Australian republished a 2012 comment about Australia’s natural gas bounty:

“Australia can not afford to ‘lock the gate’ and pass up the economic benefits of maximising a lucrative resource industry that will supply affordable energy to this and other nations,” it said.

Commentator Sid Maher said the fact that two Australian States faced potential electricity shortages this summer was “an indictment of the political class – in particular the environmental left…”

Long time respected political and business columnist Robert Gottliebsen aimed his attack at the political leadership in Victoria and NSW.

“Both major parties are still restricting gas and boosting solar and wind farms knowing (or should know) that means higher energy prices,” Gottliebsen said.

“coal or gas base load power stations are essential to secure security of energy supplies, particularly in summer.

“You can have any renewable energy target you like but the current practice of pretending that back up power and grid investment is not required is simply politicians telling blatant lies.”

The AFR described the challenge as profound and structural, the result of  “a train wreck of unco-ordinated measures”.

“None of our long term investment pipeline is for baseload power that’s reliable,” it said.

“AEMO isn’t confident more will come; instead it’s worried that our electricity market design puts no value on the reliability that renewables can not deliver.”

The Bolt column put the problem more bluntly:

“It takes world-class idiots to give Australia not just world-record electricity prices, but blackouts, too.

“Your bills have doubled in a decade and the Australian Energy Market Operator yesterday warned of summer shortages.

“How could a country with huge resources of coal, gas and uranium run short of electricity? How could AEMO now warn that “we face an increasing and unacceptable risk that there will be insufficient capability in the system”?

“Unacceptable” hardly begins to describe what we’ve done, driven by irrational superstitions and green scares. It was already “unacceptable” that we banned nuclear power here, despite exporting uranium for some of the 449 nuclear plants overseas that safely produce more than 10 per cent of the world’s electricity.

“It is also “unacceptable” that we’ve now banned fracking for gas in Victoria, the Northern Territory, WA and much of NSW, also thanks to unscientific green scares.

“Our Chief Scientist says this technology is “completely safe” when well regulated and it has been used in the US to unlock such vast new supplies of cheap gas that it has driven down prices and made the US self-reliant on energy.”

Of course from the enviro-activist perspective, this is all just the product of a disgruntled anti-Green conspiracy.

We will leave the final word to Environment Victoria’s Acting CEO, Dr Nicholas Aberle:

“The real problem identified by AEMO is that anti-renewables politicians have been putting the brakes on clean energy while turning a blind eye to the fact that coal power stations need to close.”

Right. Of course.

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