Tuesday morning’s press gave fawning coverage to a supposed plan by the Federal Government for a new gas-powered plant in the Hunter Valley. The proposed plant is said to be a replacement for the Liddell coal plant, with the old clunker retiring in early 2023 after celebrating its 50th birthday.
The announcement fits into Morrison’s current narrative of a “gas-led recovery,” featuring new pipelines and CSG in the fertile Liverpool Plains, spuriously backed by the Covid Commission chaired by resources boss Neville Power.
As so often with Morrison, however, the marketing was distinct from the detail. The announcement is actually to build a 1,000MW gas plant if the private sector doesn’t bring this much capacity online by April 2023. “If the energy companies step up to deliver on the target, the government will step back,” says the policy statement.
As the Federal government is surely aware, NSW has far more than 1,000MW of renewables on track to be delivered even before April 2021. So, in effect, Morrison’s announcement was a free headline, a subtle plug for the old myth that renewables are unreliable, all with no follow-through required.
One bizarre element of the ongoing push for pro-gas market intervention is the split between federal and state politicians. Labor’s Shadow Minister for Resources, Joel Fitzgibbon, quickly came out in support of Morrison’s Hunter gas announcement.
By contrast, NSW state Liberals are strongly behind renewable development. Three renewable energy zones planned by Macquarie Street, spanning large areas of the state’s south-west, central-west and north-west and backed by battery projects to stabilise the grid, have received overwhelming industry support and look set to take fossil fuels off-line in NSW within 20 years.
“The world is moving in this direction. Fifty three per cent of the world’s GDP has signed up to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. So it’s only going in one direction,” says NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean. “We can set ourselves up for success…or we can stick our head in the sand.”
Or in the words of Labor MP and QLD Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lytham, “Every minister in all states, if you’re a Liberal, Labor or Greens, they all identify that our future is renewable energy. The only body that doesn’t identify with that is the federal government.”