When Queensland Senator (and former Resources Minister) Matt Canavan said renewable energy was not cheaper than coal-fired power he was attacked by anti-coal activists in social media.
Green energy is cheaper, they said, and continue to say.
Yet now Senator Canavan and other members of Government are being attacked again because they are suggesting that falling costs for renewable energy projects mean we can perhaps do away with the costly taxpayer subsidies being paid to establish wind and solar projects.
An ‘outrage’ is how that sentiment was greeted. And the enviro-activists are not subtle; even those holding public office sound a lot more like wounded bullies than the community-minded souls they purport to be.
“These dinosaurs are holding us back,” Greens leader Richard Di Natale declared on ABC TV.
On the Government decision to replace the Renewable Energy Target scheme when it expires in 2020, Senator Di Natale summed up activist outrage.
“Alan Finkel has been comprehensively shafted,” he said.
“This represents the complete capitulation of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. On the one hand you have (Tony) Abbott wanting to throw goats into volcanoes. On the other, you have Malcolm Turnbull trying to put lipstick on a pig.”
And Senator Di Natale’s alternative policy prescription?
“I don’t trust big coal and gas,” he says.
“Elon musk is building the biggest battery in the world. This is what we should be doing.”
So, ‘big coal and gas’ is bad, but ‘billionaire batteries’ are just fine, right?.
According to Senator Di Natale, everyone from the Chief Scientist, to the ACCC is wrong: Australia’s East Coast does NOT have a gas supply problem.
“What we’ve got is a problem with big multinationals who are seeking to gouge Australians,” he rails.
So how much is Mr Musk’s Tesla battery costing South Australian taxpayers? Sorry – can’t answer that. Neither Mr Musk nor the SA Government will say.
What we do know is that it is not cheap (likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars) and that it will only provide continuous power for about 30,000 homes for about an hour and a half.
Is this a genuine response to the black outs SA has been experiencing – or its world-high electricity prices?
Well, if not, Senator Di Natale has a fix for that too – the Government should just go back to the good old days of centralist planning and set prices.
“Governments absolutely need to step in,” he said on ABC TV.
“They can regulate prices. We’ve got a plan to do that that could bring prices down by 15% to 20% over the next couple of years. We build battery storage technology. We get more solar and wind in the system. We make the transition the country needs. It’s good for prices, it’s good for jobs and most of all, it’s good for the planet.”
But if renewable energy is cheaper, and SA has more if it than anywhere else in the world, why does SA also have world-high electricity prices?
If it is true, why the ongoing need for subsidies and price regulation?
Senator Canavan says the answer is simple: What Senator Di Natale and other Greens MPs are saying is just plain wrong. Renewable energy is not cheaper.
A fact-check by ‘The Conversation’ agreed: black coal is about $40 per megawatt hour, while wind power (the cheapest renewable energy) is heading towards double the cost at $60-70/megawatt hour.
And that is a comparison based on black coal electricity. Brown coal is even cheaper.
But that does not matter to Senator Di Natale.
“More solar, more wind, battery technology. That is what the future looks like,” he declares emphatically.
No mention of fewer jobs, higher prices and more blackouts.