Clean Energy Council blasts Coalition plans to underwrite coal-fired power generation

Coal-fired power generation underwritten by Coalition.Clean Energy Council

The Morrison Government’s plans to underwrite coal-fired power generation will undermine Australia’s clean energy boom and increase harmful emissions.

That’s the verdict of Australia’s Clean Energy Council (CEC). The professional body for the renewables industry has attacked the new federal program for appearing to favour “high cost and high emissions” power like coal over clean energy like solar power.

According to the CEC, federal plans to underwrite new coal generation and extend the life of existing coal generators are sending “shockwaves” through the renewables sector.

Coal-fired power generation ‘wins’ over renewables

The Federal Government’s plan to underwrite new energy generation emerged from an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) report.

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Posted by Clean Energy Council on Monday, 12 November 2018

The ACCC recommended a technology neutral approach to building new energy plants that would reduce investor risk to encourage  investment.

However, the Underwriting New Generation Investment program could stray from the ACCC’s original intent. The CEC says the program is rushed, lacking in transparency and “picking winners”.

The program has now received 66 applications. Yet the government has revealed only coal-fired, gas and hydro generation plans.

The CEC says the government “made no mention of the renewable energy submissions that the clean energy industry has submitted”.

Solar power and battery storage lead the way for Australia

The cheapest form of new energy generation is wind and solar supported by storage batteries and pumped hydro, the CEC says.

More than $20 billion worth of large-scale wind and solar projects were committed by private investors in 2018 alone.

Data from the Australian National Electricity Market also shows “heroic” growth rates in wind and solar power. They are now “overwhelmingly dominant” because of rapidly falling costs and freely available resources. Solar installations are also modular and scalable.

Exponential renewable growth for the future

In fact, wind and solar panel installations are growing so fast they will overtake coal-fired power generation by the mid-2020s according to two Australian experts.

Professor of Engineering Andrew Blakers and Research Fellow Matthew Stocks from Australian National University say battery storage will also help stabilise the grid.

Renewable energy now costs between $55 and $70 per megawatt hour to produce. This is cheaper than electricity generated by new-build coal and gas plants, the academics claim.

Solar storage batteries are also more viable than pumped hydro, they add. Hydro power is unlikely to keep up with battery storage because of the limited number of rivers available for damming.