SPEECH: House of Representatives Coal Motion

May 29, 2017

Mr Conroy: (Shortland) (10:39): I welcome this motion from the member for Dawson because it again demonstrates his and his party’s economic ignorance and ignorance about the true facts of the energy industry both in this country and globally. Here are some facts: internationally, coal consumption peaked in 2013 and has actually declined every year since. Fact: wholesale electricity prices have doubled under this government. Look not just at Queensland, Mr Deputy Speaker, but across the entire NEM, where wholesale energy prices have doubled since this mob came to power in 2013. Fact: the National Electricity Market rules are hopelessly out of date.

This motion comes at an interesting time because the House energy committee had some important testimony before us last Friday. We had the government’s own regulators—the Australian Energy Market Commission and the Australian Energy Market Operator—provide the following testimony. The government’s own regulators said that higher prices are not leading to increased investment. Why? In their own words, because of the massive uncertainty that is in the marketplace due to this government’s failure on climate change and energy prices policy. The government’s own regulators are saying that the higher power prices are not leading to more investment because this mob have failed on energy policy.

What did the Australian Energy Market Commission call for on Friday? They called for an emissions intensity scheme. They said it is essential to unlocking investment and the cheapest way of solving the energy crisis in this country. They referred to the modelling they commissioned by the government’s own favourite energy modeller, Danny Price, which found that an EIS not only would unlock $48 billion worth of investment but would lower electricity prices by $15 billion. Let me repeat that: an EIS, which this government has opposed, will lower energy prices by $15 billion, according to the government’s own economic regulators. No wonder it is supported by a broad coalition, including by the New South Wales Young Nationals. The youth arm of the member for Dawson’s own party is calling for an EIS, as is the Business Council of Australia, BHP, AGL, EnergyAustralia, the National Farmers’ Federation, Origin Energy, Snowy Hydro, CSIRO, Energy Networks Australia, the Chief Scientist, the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. A broad coalition of energy experts is calling for an EIS. In fact, Danny Price, the Prime Minister’s own favourite energy policy expert, who wrote his policy in 2009, has stated that the Liberal and National parties are the parties of higher power prices. They are the parties of higher power prices.

The truth is that our power station fleet is very old. The average age of power stations in Victoria is 41, and in New South Wales it is 35. The four Hunter and Central Coast power stations around my electorate provide fully one-third of Australia’s coal-fired power production, and they are due to retire, according to their own companies, in 2022, 2028, 2034 and 2035. We need replacements. We need investment into this sector. Investors need certainty.

The replacement is very unlikely to be new coal-fired power. That is not because of any mad greenies or environmentalists; it is because the economics of the industry are changing. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, new coal-fired power stations will cost about $130 per megawatt hour. When you get to the pipedream of carbon capture and storage, which the member for Dawson is very interested in, you can triple that price. This is independent experts saying it will be $130 per megawatt hour for new coal. Large-scale solar photovoltaics are already at $100 per megawatt hour and new wind is at $60 per megawatt hour.

Mr Craig Kelly: Cut all the subsidies!

Mr CONROY: Without a subsidy. That is the price without a subsidy. These sources can provide reliable energy through true integration of the National Electricity Market when coupled with storage technology, whether it is pumped hydro or battery storage.

I am proud to represent a coal-fired region. My region was built on coal and coal will have a strong role into the future. But we need to be realistic. We cannot lie, which is what those members opposite are doing. We cannot perpetuate untruths that somehow coal-fired power is competitive against unsubsidised renewable energy in this country. It is just wrong. The government’s own regulators have said it is wrong. The government’s own regulators have said an emissions intensity scheme will lower power prices and decarbonise the grid, and that is what we should be talking about in this debate.

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