Surviving the Trade Show Trenches: Australia’s Energy Politics

Adam Bandt at the Smart Energy Conference

L to R, NSW Energy Minister Penny Sharpe, Saul Griffith, Defence Minister Matt Thistlewaite (running away) Wyatt Roy, Terri Butler & Greens leader Adam Bandt.

Navigating the labyrinth of trade shows can often feel like a journey through a fantasy novel, complete with elf-sized airline seats, networking events that leave heads spinning, and generous sales reps locked in fierce debates over dinner bills. Yet, I’ve braved these challenges to bring you the latest insights from the frontlines of the energy industry.

In this post, I’ll focus on the recent remarks made by Greens leader Adam Bandt at a session titled “The Opportunity For Australia”. Regardless of your stance on The Greens, their policies, or their personalities, Bandt’s speech raised some critical points that warrant serious discussion.

Bandt’s Battle Cry for Climate Action

Bandt’s impassioned speech was a clarion call for urgent climate action. He underscored Australia’s unique opportunity to electrify homes and businesses, export renewable energy, and tackle the climate crisis simultaneously. However, he cautioned that poor decisions in the coming years could squander this golden opportunity, much like the past decade.

The Greens are pushing back against gas corporations, pouring millions into the Liberal and Labour parties. They are advocating for a swift transition to electrification, a halt to new coal or gas mines, and a reduction in actual pollution from coal and gas in Australia.

The Gas Industry: Friend or Foe?

Despite the gas industry’s attempts to paint a rosy picture through slick advertising campaigns and scare tactics about electrification costs, the transition to cleaner and cheaper all-electric homes is inevitable. But the industry isn’t going down without a fight, resorting to greenwashing tactics to buy more time and squeeze out more profits.

Australian Gas Market Absurdity

Venice Energy expects to take a final investment decision to build its FSRU-based LNG import project in Port Adelaide by August. WTF? Instead of focussing our attention on speeding up the inevitable goal of eliminating gas, plans are afoot to “import” Australian gas back into Australia from far off… Australia.

In light of outlandish electricity prices being dictated by the expense of gas, here’s a fun fact:

Just to get the gas onto ships for export, the gas industry uses more gas to compress, refrigerate and liquefy gas than the entire Australian gas-fired electricity generation fleet.

Bandt’s Key Takeaways

Bandt’s observations underscore the urgency of the situation:

  • Australia has a golden opportunity to electrify its homes and businesses and export renewable energy overseas.
  • The gas industry is the biggest user and polluter of gas in Australia.
  • We should be taxing the profits of big coal and gas corporations to drive the transition to renewables.
  • The Greens believe no new coal and gas mines should be opened and want electrification as quickly as possible.
  • The climate wars are not between political parties, but between the people, the planet, and the colossal money behind coal and gas corporations.

This is roughly what the Greens have achieved with their negotiations so far.

The Road Ahead

To secure a sustainable future, we need to:

  • make our next car an electric car
  • add solar panels and batteries
  • install grid-smart EV chargers
  • replace old gas water heaters with heat pumps
  • replace gas with electric cooking
  • halt new coal and gas mines
  • tax the profits of big coal and gas corporations
  • and reform the petroleum resource rent tax.
comparison of Norway's fossil fuel royalties and Australia's

The orange area shows the royalties paid by fossil fuel corporations in Australia and Norway.

Most importantly, we must push the governing Labor Party to make the right decisions.

The Gas Industry Are Desperate

As Bandt aptly put it,

“We’re witnessing the last gasp of gas and like a cornered animal, they will fight tooth and nail to slow down the electrification transition.”

The decisions made by the Federal Labor government in the coming months will determine the speed of electrification in Australia. And the signs, at this point, are concerning.

My Two Cents

What we need now more than ever is strong leadership to push back against the gas companies.

Unfortunately, just yesterday, the SA Energy Minister told gas companies his government is:

“at your disposal”.

Electrification makes economic sense for the country and democratises energy, making it inherently efficient, anti-inflationary, and egalitarian. Don’t let the gas companies or captured pollies tell you otherwise.

About Anthony Bennett

Anthony joined the SolarQuotes team in 2022. He’s a licensed electrician, builder, roofer and solar installer who for 14 years did jobs all over SA - residential, commercial, on-grid and off-grid. A true enthusiast with a skillset the typical solar installer might not have, his blogs are typically deep dives that draw on his decades of experience in the industry to educate and entertain. Read Anthony's full bio.

Comments

  1. Hugh Spencer says

    Basically, heat pumps are another gasp by the refrigeration industry. Far better are evacuated-tube solar thermal collectors (which will work at subzero temperatures) use no power (except maybe a small circulating pump) and use no refrigerant (which will eventually leak out as they age). Set and forget (oh, and they are completely silent).

  2. The solution is simple.
    All we have to do is out “donate” Coal and Gas to our political parties, and then we can get a government that works for us.
    Open your wallets people.

  3. Bill Currie says

    The major political parties all take massive donations from the fossil fuel lobby. Follow the money.

  4. Geoff Miell says

    What we need now more than ever is strong leadership to push back against the gas companies.

    Yep. I think humanity is facing at least three existential threats to human civilisation if we/humanity continue business-as-usual (BAU). These are:

    1. The Climate Crisis;
    2. The Energy Crisis, including particularly the emerging Oil Crisis; and
    3. The ongoing COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

    I think these escalating threats will inevitably worsen global food security.

    Some of the evidence/data I see that supports my concerns is highlighted in my Submission (#165) to the Australian Parliament House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture for their Inquiry into Food Security in Australia.
    https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Agriculture/FoodsecurityinAustrali/Submissions

    QUESTIONS TO PONDER:

    Why are governments in Australia continuing to approve more fossil fuel projects?
    Do they think the Laws of Physics are ‘negotiable’?
    https://johnmenadue.com/negotiating-with-the-laws-of-physics-is-not-good-climate-policy/
    Do they wish to increase the suffering of many Australians in the coming years/decades?

    Are governments in Australia prepared for the consequences of a super El Niño, that appears increasingly likely later this year and into 2024?
    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/model-summary/#tabs=Bureau-model&region=NINO34

    Are governments in Australia prepared for the consequences of the Earth System INEVITABLY overshooting the +1.5 °C global mean warming threshold, and appears increasingly likely occurring within this decade (2020s)?

    Are governments in Australia prepared for an increasingly likely multi-metre sea level rise before 2100?

    What would governments in Australia do if our imported crude oil & petroleum fuel supplies are disrupted/blocked?
    https://crudeoilpeak.info/another-3-year-warning-on-australias-fuel-imports-vulnerability

  5. George Kaplan says

    Anything said by Bandt and the Greens needs to be treated as WMD grade propaganda.

    Taxing coal and gas at a time when cost of living is soaring, electricity prices are rising, and coal and gas underpin Australia’s electrical grid, just means major pain for those who can least afford it – companies will simply pass the pain on.

    There is no climate war, only radical differences in view between the Left and Right sides of politics, and the ideological variations thereof. The planet doesn’t have a view – it’s neither sentient nor sapient. Coal and gas companies don’t care about ideology, they just want to sell their product.

    -Next car will almost definitely be an ICE (it’s the cheaper and more environmentally sustainable option)
    -Already have solar, batteries remain economically non-viable
    -Heat pumps, assuming that means ducted AC, are heavy users of electricity and thus not suited for people without solar or the ability to pay massive power bills
    -New coal and gas mines are essential to keep Australia’s budget near the black.

    I don’t see how electrification makes economic sense or democratises energy. Isn’t it actually elitist and economically dangerous?

    Obviously I see things radically differently, or I’m missing something, so perhaps someone can explain what I don’t see. Conversion from coal and gas to a reliable (mass battery) solar + wind based system means massively expensive electricity – RoI etc unless governments re-nationalise power, which I don’t see happening under either Green-Labor or the Coalition.

    As electricity becomes more unaffordable those with savings can opt out of the socialised\communal electricity grid and go solar + battery + fossil fuel backup generator. Those with the least have to support the entire system, those with the most go for a cheaper, reliable, alternative, with fossil fuel as a fallback.

  6. George Kaplan says

    PS: What I assume is a slide from a presentation about Qatar receiving ~25x in royalties for the same volume is interesting, but reflects a corporate-legislative issue. Companies can simply transfer profits out of Australia as ‘intellectual property costs’ or other tax rorts. Is there a solution?

    I’m not sure gas companies are using that particular dodge, and frankly they’re probably minor players when compared to other large multinationals, but corporations not paying their fair share of tax is a major issue.

  7. Trevor Jones says

    You obviously don’t understand. Victoria and NSW have no gas because they followed your greens and stopped gas exploration and new gas fields. Qld an SA continued gas production and exploration and Qld created an east coast export gas market equal to the WA offshore gas market.
    Victoria has banned gas exploration and are predicted to run out of gas in 2027. The greens will be happy when the light go out.
    Global gas producing countries in decreasing order 2021 is, USA, Russia, Iran, China, Canada, Qatar, Canada, Australia, Norway, Saudi Arabia.

    The greens have fought against any new gas fields or coal mines for years and delay or stop any new production which has the effect of detering any new investment in exploration. Northern territory has offfshore gas in international waters and some onshore gas which the greens are lobbying native title holders to stop exploration despite the benefits they may experience if development is planned and approved.

    Norway has basicly one large North sea field, which if you compare the scale of you two graphs, Australia’s revenue falls below the first line on Norway’s sales.When the large producers have recovered their investment and there is little need for more exploration or development there is sense in maximising your revenue. What the greens want to do is prevent Austrlia ever reaching Norway’s potential. OK I looked again and the numbers are AUD and NOK which is about 7 to one but my comments still apply. The greens are against gas, coal and oil and don’t care that renewables can’t provide baseload continuous power.

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Hi Trevor,

      We always try to understand what’s going on and while you can imagine that Soar Quotes might have a renewable bent, our reportage is about educating the average punter in what’s best for them, economically as well as what’s best for society at large. I trust you’ll take the following commentary, and the evidence in the links provided, as being the best of our knowledge.

      Right now I think this is the easiest way to understand the future.

      https://www.rewiringaustralia.org/#

      In a world where “cooking with gas” has become a byword for good going, people ask for recommendations from Solar Quotes because we offer advice that’s not tainted by vested interests. It’s also why we have reciprocal arrangements with Choice magazine.

      We should all be more angry that we’ve been sold a horrible lie. Gas is not great sadly.

      ‘A child living with gas cooking in the home faces a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke,’ report author Dr Kate Charlesworth said.
      https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/household-gas-a-major-contributor-to-childhood-ast
      https://slate.com/technology/2020/12/gas-stoves-hazardous-asthma.html

      All electric houses are cheaper to run.
      https://www.smh.com.au/money/saving/want-to-save-1859-a-year-ditch-gas-20220606-p5arf6.html

      Induction cooking is lots more efficient, won’t set your house on fire & is far easier to clean.
      https://www.goodfood.com.au/good-living/gas-v-induction-cooktops-what-is-your-pick-20170428-gvv914

      For these very good reasons gas is being banned in new houses…
      https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/money/gas-boilers-to-be-banned-24143635
      https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-05-27/get-ready-for-electric-stoves-los-angeles-bans-natual-gas-in-most-new-homes

    • Anthony Bennett says

      I should also add that while gas was a revelation in terms of being “clean” when there was a change from coal generated town gas to “natural” fossil methane, the perceived cleanliness was relative, compared to a coal fire in your living room.

      The gas industry knew there were problems though, they’ve just hidden it like the tobacco industry did.
      In 1973, EPA scientists published the first study linking respiratory illness to gas stoves in homes

      https://reneweconomy.com.au/gas-industry-knew-about-air-pollution-problems-from-stoves-in-early-1970s/?fbclid=IwAR0rZbpu4PRsgsIx-RI_kF-yQiVuojBj81u3d3vXEkFUJ-YLJaBDmFG_sRM

      As the last in the bid stack on the NEM, gas makes all electricity expensive, not least of all because if there’s no wind, gas generators in Adelaide act as a cartel, only brought to heel by the “big battery” @ Hornsdale. Gas has a role right now but it is ever diminishing, the sooner we’re done with it the better.

      “Baseload” is industry jargon which used to mean the minimum load they could run a thermal plant.

      The coal industry has now corrupted the term “baseload” so that it roughly translates to “please remember when we were kings”. Stoking boilers up and down every day shortens their life, so artificially cheap tariffs were introduced to -create- demand where it would otherwise never be. ie overnight off peak.

      We now have real time pricing to incentivise use when energy is cheap. SAPN already offers a “solar sponge” tariff at 25% normal rates compared to 125% for peak use. 

      There is genuine surplus in the system, the cheap rates are in the middle of the day now, and they’re cheaper than ever. That means people have incentive to change their behaviour, use their own energy, be more efficient.

      Combined with demand response, where you’re paid to curtail your use, “baseload” just disappears in a puff of smoke called negawatts. 

      Thanks for reading. I hope it’s been enlightening.

      • Anthony:
        “only brought to heel by the “big battery” @ Hornsdale.”
        Not really, any time there is no wind in SA, like 12 May 2023 08:00:
        Battery 63MW
        Gas: 933MW
        Imported (brown) coal: 577MW
        And then only for 1.5 hours, which is only 90MWh.
        A few days on 15 May 08:00, with little wind, batteries produce 6MW.
        Not really much help!!!
        Ref: OpemNEM

        • Anthony Bennett says

          Hi Dave,

          There’s actually a lot more to batteries than just MWh delivered. Their best tricks are ones played quicker than you can blink.

          There’s a market for system security called FCAS. Simply put, when something falls over and the system needs to be rescued, digital technology can respond in 140 milliseconds, whereas steam engines can take 6 seconds to get their socks on and wobble out of bed. I’m led to believe some still haven’t managed to stop the system frequency hunting minutes later.

          https://reneweconomy.wpengine.com/hornsdale-big-battery-doubles-savings-to-consumers-and-keeps-lights-on-85139/

          Cheers

          • Anthony,
            Batteries ‘best tricks’ maybe exaggerated, SA still required Synchronous Condensers *
            I believe we need many more batteries/PHES to address the wasteful curtailment that will occur in the NEM.

            But batteries have some important issues that should not be overlooked:

            1. Batteries only partially assist in FCAS, the event often quoted is 14 Dec 2017, when ”Hornsdale save the day.” LYA lost 500MW but Hornsdale supplied 6 MW!! It was saved by coal (Gladstone) and Hydro (Jindabyne).
            https://wattclarity.com.au/articles/2018/03/fcas-in-action-what-happens-when-a-generator-trips/

            2. The SA battery failed when needed, and were fined $900K. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/renewable-energy-economy/sas-famous-big-battery-has-been-fined-for-not-being-able-to-deliver-critical-grid-control-support/news-story/0ecc62732945b8add16200366f967f17

            3. Another issue is timing, at some time the batteries run out making matters worse, a great article explaining the operators timing problems can found at:
            https://wattclarity.com.au/articles/2021/04/big-batteries-big-issues/

            Dave
            * In Dec 2021 SA had introduced Synchronous Condensers, big flywheels, 4 so far because there is not enough FCAS from their batteries. It used to be known as spinning reserve, which is inherent in hydro, CCGT and coal power stations and supply inertia and stability to the system.
            Not cheap at $15-20million a unit.

          • Anthony Bennett says

            Hi Dave,

            Since installing 4 syncons AEMO will now allow the grid in SA to run with just 80MW of conventional inertia, down from 300MW, which was the floor they established after the September 2016 cyclone & subsequent system black.

            My understanding is that inverters (backed by batteries) are the fastest thing on the network. When there’s a large disturbance literally nothing else can respond to maintain frequency in the same fashion. With unparalleled speed and accuracy, whatever the disturbance is can be brought under control without causing the whole system to ring like a bell after a big bang. I’m not qualified to do the maths but FCAS is also tied up with ROCOF (rate of change of frequency) and this is critical to stop the entire grid hunting, as all the big bits of metal are throttled on to meet a load… and they overshoot… and over correct… and overshoot a little less next time.

            The fundamental point is that “spinning reserve” is also aptly described as “waste” because it’s akin to having a train with a spare locomotive, following just a metre behind. There’s all the costs (staff, maintenance, fuel, pollution) of running that engine, at full speed, without it doing any useful work. It’s just there in case of emergency.

            That’s how it’s always been done in the past, but if you have a battery electric locomotive, then it can be coupled to the train all the time. There’s no driver needed and there’s no fuel burnt or pollution made, while maintenance is little more than greasing the wheels… so it’s cheap. The spare loco can be programmed to act as brakes and energy recovery when going down hill and if there’s a hill to climb then it will provide assistance, instantaneously.

          • Anthony Bennett says

            Hi Dave,

            There was some interesting commentary after this post :

            https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/sa-off-grid-renewables/

            Cheers

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