Canavan: Renewables The “Dole Bludgers” Of Energy

Matt Canavan - coal power

Image: Senator Matt Canavan via Facebook

Senator Matt Canavan is ramping up his pro-coal power message for North Queensland, and has made an interesting comment about renewables.

Up until last week, Senator Canavan was Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. That came to an end when he backed Barnaby Joyce in his failed attempt at regaining leadership of the Nationals.

Senator Canavan is unrepentant in his support of Mr. Joyce.

“My judgement was that Barnaby was a firebrand who could get that job done,” he said on Friday. ” I made the call that I thought was right and I am at ease to live with the consequences.”

Now free of his responsibilities as a Minister, the Senator has far more wiggle room for promoting coal power.

In an article by Senator Canavan for the Courier Mail published early this morning (paywall), he says there is no power station north of Rockhampton that can generate electricity 24 hours a day.

“Renewable energy can complement our energy needs but renewables do not run all the time making them unsuitable to support manufacturing jobs. Renewables are the dole bludgers of the energy system, they only turn up to work when they want to.”

Senator Canavan applauded a joint announcement by Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction (!) Angus Taylor, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Canavan’s successor Keith Pitt and Assistant Minister for Northern Australia Michelle Landry for up to $4 million to support a feasibility study by Shine Energy for a proposed 1GW “high efficiency, low emissions” coal plant at Collinsville in Queensland.

The HELE Furphy

The term “high efficiency, low emissions” – or HELE – is rather misleading. It would be more accurate to call it “not so high efficiency, not so low emissions”, but NSHENSLE is really hard to pronounce and does nothing to strengthen the case of those who support it.

The Finkel Review report (PDF) released in June 2017 noted the following estimated operating emissions (kg CO2-e/ MWh) for various forms of coal power:

  • Subcritical (conventional) brown coal – 1,140
  • Supercritical brown coal (HELE) – 960
  • Subcritical (conventional) black coal – 940
  • Supercritical black coal (HELE) -860
  • Ultra-supercritical brown coal (HELE) – 845
  • Ultra-supercritical black coal (HELE) – 700

.. so “HELE” is lower, but not low by any stretch of the imagination. Addition of HELE technology increases the cost of coal power and as for carbon capture and storage (CCS), well..

Yesterday, Senator Canavan also posted a headline from what appears to be a 2014 report that stated a major (800MW) coal fired power station will put strong downward pressure on electricity prices in North Queensland. The headline mentions a potential $838 million “social cost benefit gain”.

I haven’t been able to locate the full report and it’s not clear if the assessment for NQ refers to a HELE plant. Chances are it doesn’t take into account the health or environmental costs – coal power has been a free rider in this regard.

Since that report was published, the cost of zero-emissions renewables such as solar energy have continued to plummet and as for renewables being the “dole bludgers of the energy system”, a thing called storage can address that – which is also dropping in price. On that note..

Federal Government Cash For Renewables Pre-feasibility Study

What Senator Canavan didn’t mention in his Courier Mail piece was another element of the same Federal Government announcement.

Up to $2 million is to be provided for a pre-feasibility study on Renewable Energy Partners Pty Ltd’s proposed 1.5 gigawatt (GW) pumped hydro-electric plant, which is to be developed in conjunction with the proposed Urannah Water Scheme located between Collinsville, Proserpine and Mackay.

But the Urannah Renewable Energy Hub would be much more than just pumped hydro. RenewEconomy reports it would also feature up to 1.3GW of solar PV capacity, 800MW of wind power and a 200MW hydrogen electrolyser. The project would significantly boost energy security in North Queensland, support manufacturing, create jobs – and generate zero-emissions electricity.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. The Coal industry, Canavan and his coal fired cronies still insist on conflating Australias coking coal production ( far and away the bigger export earner and not mentioned in emissions reductions talks because you can’t make steel without it) and thermal coal to justify continuing digging up the latter despite falling demand. It makes no sense to build a new coal burner if the energy industry isn’t interested: the LNP are banking on winning the next Qld state election to railroad this project through.
    Put the money towards restoring our steel industry and making renewable energy components

  2. Seems one man’s firebrand is another’s boofhead.

  3. Of course! Why didn’t they realise renewable energy was a bludger before they added all those useless turbines to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric scheme.

  4. This is nearly up there with Michaelia’s ‘Save our Utes’ campaign. Please Scott, after 25 years it’s time for the LNP to clear out the reactionaries and return to something that a reasonably informed citizen could vote for.

  5. The senator has a point. Do we have to wait for the lights to go out relying on renewables, Don’t flog me I have a good solar system on my house, roll on nuclear.

  6. Brent Emerson says

    My dole bludging solar panels (31.08kw) power my hot water, my air conditioner, my business electricity, my house all day every day and my Tesla Model 3 for 20% of the cost of grid power. Bloody good bludgers.

  7. Trying to have a reasonable discussion without name calling or ridicuiling anyone I find this ex minister has a reasonable point.
    ‘Renewable energy can complement our energy needs but renewables do not run all the time making them unsuitable to support manufacturing jobs’.
    For example in SE queensland we have had a week of overcast or showery weather with apparently more to come. My PV system is producing from .1 to .5 of its normal. This weather is not unusual and a huge back up would be needed if we relied on renewables. Batteries- forget it; pumped hydro- possible but it would have to be massive and NIMBY would stop that; stored hydrogen- possible, but unproved and expensive ( who remembers gasometers from the 1950’s). Also to produce enough energy to run things and have enough to store for rainy, or showery, or calm days the PV or wind system would have to be massive. That leaves natural gas- an expensive use of a high quality fuel and it still produces the bad stuff.
    So to me the pragmatic future seems a bit of renewables and back up including gas, but mainly coal. Or nuclear fission (or fusion sometime in the glorious future) which ticks all the boxes.
    To put this in one easy to remember sentence-
    Clean, cheap, continuous; you can have any two.

    • Ray Tinkler says

      Hello Bob, (now there was a politically charged lead in if ever there was), thankyou for your thought provoking response to the problem we face.. I would take the ex minister to task about his remarks, not just on his vilification of renewables of being bludgers, but also of the Nationals ever being concerned about manufacturing jobs. What a joke that is. He alludes to coal fired generation as being available all the time, but that is also it’s weakness. It has to run all the time, known as base load, in other words, when it is not needed, basically just burning coal for little good reason. (not too many of the few manufacturing plants left, run at night either).

      I am also in S.E. Qld, with a 6.0Kw PV system and solar water heating and am feeling the effect of this prolonged wet, overcast weather we are experiencing, much longer than I can remember as a normal outside of a Cyclonic event. Even they usually only last 4-5 days, this has been going on for weeks and with the first Cyclone of the season threatening, probably for longer.

      AS far as Hydrogen and Gasometers. I can remember them too from my early youth, but of course, now we either liquefy or compress the gas we need to store, so I doubt any NIMBY’s will worry about that too much. They already exist at Petrol stations for LPG. Gas, as is well known, is much preferable as a present backup to solar. ( I’ll ignore wind as, for as far as I am aware, the sun and wind don’t have a pact that says that when the sun doesn’t shine, the wind will go on strike in sympathy and as the grid is interconnected, the wind is generally blowing somewhere and usually when the weather is inclement ). Gas, is, no doubt, of the currently available options that can supply the needed steam ( remember, like nuclear, they have not discovered as yet how to produce electricity directly from the fission of an atom, but only as an alternative to boil water ) and is particularly suitable to provide that quick boost of generation that is the one most needed, when a power shortage in the grid is detected and won’t cause the surrounding district for kilometers to be polluted with radiation, for years, like nuclear, should an accident/natural disaster unfold at it’s site. Now that is something for the NIMBY’s to get worked up about. I’m sure the ex residents of Chernobyl (that remain) and those of Fukushima might be in that boat.

      In the meantime, we can be working hard, with the encouragement of Govt, to solve whatever is needed to transform to a 100% renewable future as quickly as possible. No one, including the scientists, said it would be easy. Getting from “any two” to all clean, must be the objective.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Bob Johnson,
      You state:
      “Trying to have a reasonable discussion without name calling or ridicuiling [sic] anyone I find this ex minister has a reasonable point.”

      I think Senator Canavan is a climate science denier and his comments indicate he is apparently ill-informed. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s wilfully so.

      On 17 November 2018, leading climate scientist Professor H. J. Schellnhuber CBE outlined in his presentation humanity’s likely future fate:

      EITHER choice #1: A harsher Earth climate state we/humanity MIGHT adapt to, but requires a rapid reduction (50% reduction by 2030 and zero by 2050) of ALL global human-induced GHG emissions;

      OR choice #2: A highly undesirable Earth climate state that consequently precipitates human civilization collapse and a human population reduced to less than one billion within this century, likely with our/humanity’s current global GHG emissions trajectory.
      See my comment:

      The overwhelming scientific evidence indicates humanity must rapidly reduce GHG emissions (from coal, fossil natural gas, petroleum oil – combustion of all carbon-based materials by humanity must cease before 2050), if human civilization is to have any chance of prevailing in the coming decades.

      The 2019-20 Australian bushfire emergency is a prelude to inevitably worse events to come – we already have a global average temperature rise of 1.0–1.1°C (above pre-industrial age) and already locked-in for likely 1.8–2.0°C due to GHG emissions already present in the atmosphere. But IMO you wouldn’t know that if you relied on most of the mainstream media.
      See the open letter supported by 446 scientists with research expertise across fields of climate, fire and weather science (so far):

      Humanity has already failed to some extent as we are already experiencing dangerous climate change – the question is how much worse do we want our circumstances to get to? – to the extinction of nearly all of humanity within this century perhaps? I hope not, but the longer we delay effectively acting increases the risk of that happening.

      Bob, I suspect you are a climate science denier, based on your comments suggesting: “So to me the pragmatic future seems a bit of renewables and back up including gas, but mainly coal.” You apparently think the continued and ongoing combustion of coal and gas is acceptable. The scientific evidence I see indicates that your “pragmatic future” would most likely lead to civilization suicide/collapse due to the Earth’s climate becoming a ‘hothouse’ and large areas of Earth becoming uninhabitable!

      Bob, for your sake and the future of your family (if you have any?), can you afford to be so wrong?

      As for the problem of renewables intermittency, see my comment:

      Bob, IMO your comments indicate to me you are woefully ill-informed. Please be better informed. Perhaps you could educate yourself by looking at the References in my Submission (#215 and #215a) at:

      In this age of information, ignorance is a choice.

  8. Its not hard to see which politicians are owned and controlled by the coal industry.
    Canavan is little more than a messenger boy delivering the message of his master trying to con the public. He has no credibility and he may want to explain his brother’s business dealings whereby he acquired significant coal interests via his brother’s position in government. No comment???

    In the end we only have ONE planet and using the financial well being argument is as valid as yelling out to somebody drowning that the lifebuoy cannot be thrown because there’s a customer wanting to buy it tomorrow. Its the nonsense of the dinosaur National Party which will disappear at the next election. Good riddance to lying crooks in suits who do not care about survival, only money.

    I’m waiting for the voting public to wake up to the fact they are milked at every election, the result of believing propaganda run by two billionaires who own most of the media outlets in this country and a system of bias controlled by the top end of town for its own purposes.
    Be careful who you vote for. You’ll deserve what you get.

  9. Dave Bradley says

    Shine Energy, No experience coal but claim they already have access to $2 billion through Credit Suisse to build a coal fired power station have just been given $4 million by Morrison to do a ‘feasability study”! Seriously!

    Shine energy haven’t done a feasibility study but have finance?

    Has anyone done due diligence on Shine Energy

    Micheal West has done a bit and their main expertise seems to be glitzy web design

    Shine Energy: behind the push for a new coal-fired power station

    Shine CEO Asley Dodds interview with Andrew Bolt raised more questions than answers

    Well there goes another $4 million of our tax money to what looks like another delaying action against renewables to quieten the Nats

    Can’t they use some of their funds they have acess to with Credit Suisse to do the feasibility study themselves?

    What a silly question.

Speak Your Mind

Please keep the SolarQuotes blog constructive and useful with these 5 rules:

1. Real names are preferred - you should be happy to put your name to your comments.
2. Put down your weapons.
3. Assume positive intention.
4. If you are in the solar industry - try to get to the truth, not the sale.
5. Please stay on topic.

Please solve: 19 + 4 

Get The SolarQuotes Weekly Newsletter