Issue 57, November/December 2009


This issue includes reports on the impact of power price rises on small business, thousands of megawatts of generation capacity recently built and under planning, the continuing investment prospects and hurdles for Australian renewable energy, a shock New Zealand court decision to ban a $NZ2 billion wind farm development, the crucial decision in Western Australia on domestic natural gas supply,the debut of a hydro project more than a half century after it was planned, a final report on the road to Copenhagen – and more.

Setting the bar

Victorian Premier John Brumby, at the height of the row over compensation for the Latrobe Valley generators – who claim that the emissions trading scheme will cost them $8 billion versus $2 billion compensation offered by the Rudd Government – summed up the situation like this: “When people get home from work at night, they turn the switch on, they expect the lights to go on. The challenge here is to make sure that what’s achieved (through the ETS) is energy security, a smaller greenhouse gas footprint and additional aggregate investment.”

Slump deflates demand

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics demonstrate the impact of the global financial crisis on business operations in this country – but also the strength of the economy.

Production data published in mid-November show that quarterly output of electricity has fallen from the peaks reached over the past three years.  In the September 2009 quarter, according to the ABS, production was 58,394 GWh, well down on the 64,067 GWh recorded in the same quarter 2008 and and below the 59,806 GWh for that period in 2007.

The statistics show that total electricity generated in the 2008-2009 financial year was 239,951 GWh – this is still higher than 231,995 GWh produced in fiscal 2007-08, reflecting the Australian economy’s resilience in the slump period.

(The data refer to total generation output, including own use by power stations and line losses, not consumption.)

The problems confronting attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are also reflected in ABS data indicating that production, more than 80 percent coal-fired, rose 9.6 percent between fiscal 2004-05 and last financial year.

Prices on the up

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that electricity prices have averaged a 15.6 percent increase in the September quarter, compared with the same period a year ago.

Tim Wolfenden, CEO of consultancy Make it Cheaper, claims that small businesses are seeing average energy price rises of about $1,200 a year.

Meanwhile Port Jackson Partners, in a report on infrastructure prepared for the Business Council of Australia, has predicted that electricity costs for consumers will double by 2015.  Across the Australian retail sector, it says, this could cost $1.8 billion a year.

PJP modelling projects both the wholesale price of electricity and retailer charges doubling between 2009 and 2015 with network charges increasing by almost 110 percent.

The consultancy adds there are further factors that could affect power bills – including the need to build extensive new transmission links to serve burgeoning renewable energy, required by the Rudd government’s higher mandatory scheme, “many ad hoc energy efficiency measures” and a rise in financing costs for generators.

The Business Council report calls for the price trends and its threat to industrial competitiveness as well as a range of energy policy reform issues to be addressed by the Rudd government in its delayed energy white paper.

Seven new generators

Seven new electricity generation projects were completed in the six months to October, reports the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics.

ABARE says the largest project commissioned was Braemar 2 in south-east Queensland, with a capacity of 450 MW fired by coal seam methane, costing $546 million. The second biggest (see below) was the $451 million Tamar Valley plant in Tasmania followed by the $425 million Neerabup power station near Kwinana, Western Australia, with a capacity of 320 MW, fuelled by natural gas.

Also completed was the $400 million Bluewaters stage 1 coal-fired plant, built by Griffin Energy in south-western WA. The company has a further 208 MW stage under construction at a further capex outlay of $405 million.

Three wind farms were commissioned in the half-year:  the $220 million Capital project north-east of Canberra (140 MW), the $90 million Cullerin development (30MW), also in New South Wales, and the 44 MW third stage of Pacific Hydro’s Portland project.

The agency reports that there are currently 18 generation projects either under construction or at advanced stages of development. They have a combined capacity of 3,569 MW, equal to about seven percent of national power. Seventy-six percent of the developments are to be fuelled by natural gas or coal seam methane. The biggest, Delta Electricity’s Colongra project is scheduled to be completed in December at a cost of $500 million.  The NSW Government-owned business says the plant will have a capacity of 660 MW.

Also under construction on the southern coast is Origin Energy’s $640 million gas-fuelled power station at Mortlake, western Victoria, scheduled to be completed in 2010 with a capacity of 550 MW. 

Origin also has its Darling Downs CSM plant under construction in Queensland, scheduled to deliver 550 MW capacity in 2010 at a capital cost of $640 million.

Least publicised of the projects identified by ABARE is the expansion of the NSW Government’s Eraring black coal generator on the Central Coast, with $245 million being spent to add about 60 MW to each of its large units.

Thinking big in NSW

State government businesses and private investors have more than 5,600 MW of generation capacity with planning approval and almost 8,300 MW of projects in the planning system, according to the New South Wales Department of Water and Energy. Another 809 MW are presently under construction.

NSW currently has 18,000 MW of installed generation capacity, including the Snowy Hydro scheme, and access via interconnectors to another 2,600 MW in Queensland and Victoria.

Clearly, not all the generation under consideration is likely to be built in any foreseeable time frame – for example, the 790MW gas-fired project at Tomago planned by government-owned Macquarie Generation (and approved for develoment) would depend on expansion of the aluminium industry and will be affected by the Rees government’s privatisation scheme.  MacGen and Delta Electricity, also owned by the government, have each put forward proposals for 2,000 MW of coal-fired or gas-burning generation development -- at Bayswater and Mt Piper – respectively. These are currently being assessed under the State’s environmental regulations and Premier Nathan Rees has already indicated he wants to see gas development rather than coal. Each again will be affected by the privatisation plans.

The government list also includes the $1 billion Bluescope Steel project to develop 225 MW of gas-fuelled cogeneration at its Port Kembla site.  The steelmaker took the project off its development list during the worst of the global economic slump and has since labeled it “unaffordable” under the current Rudd government proposals for an emissions trading scheme. The list also includes TRUenergy’s proposal to add another 300 MW to the recently-commissioned 435 MW Tallawarra gas-fired power station near Wollongong – a prospect the Hong Kong-owned generator also has declared by the impact of the ETS on its Australian activities.

Notable in the departmental list is the amount of wind power under consideration – for a State that at present has just 30 MW of wind capacity and 141 MW under construction near Canberra. 

Water & Energy identifies 3,532 MW of wind farm projects, including the 1,000 MW development near Broken Hill mooted at a capital cost of $2.5 billion by the German firm Epuron in a joint venture with Macquarie Capital Group. Also listed are a 450 MW wind farm near Yass (Epuron) and a 485 MW development near Glen Innes (Wind Prospect, which has plans for other projects at Mudgee and Monaro totalling 390 MW).

Turmoil within the NSW Government has not helped investor confidence. The State Minister for Finance and Infrastructure, Joe Tripodi, who was overseeing the power privatisation process, was sacked in November.  Before his removal, Tripodi had argued that “industry is ready, willing and able to invest in new generation in NSW.”  He rejected a call by the NSW Business Chamber for the Rees government to “go back to the drawing board” on its energy strategy while acknowledging that the issue of uncertainty created by the long drawn out emissions trading debate is “real”. 

Tripodi said potential investors know they will be operating in a carbon-constrained environment and are preparing to manage the costs and risks this will create. In mid-year he had also said that the government appreciated the need to have new sources of baseload power generation available by mid-decade. He indicated then that the developments mooted by MacGen and Delta would require expenditure of between $6 billion and $10 billion.

Premier Rees has written to the State’s Energy & Environment Minister, John Robertson, ordering development of “a comprehensive energy policy, with strong emphasis on clean energy.”

Rees says he wants the strategy to include a plan for NSW to match the Rudd government’s national target of having 20 percent of electricity sourced from renewable energy by 2020.

Still regretting RET

The upstream petroleum industry is not letting up on its opposition to the Rudd government introducing both the enlarged renewable energy target and an emissions trading scheme.

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association has maintained criticism all year that implementing the new RET will increase greenhouse gas abatement costs without changing the environmental outcomes beyond those able to be achieved with emissions trading. It argues that the RET is neither efficient nor effective in meeting national goals.

In the latest edition of APPEA’s Flowline magazine, chief executive Belinda Robinson adds that the RET will cost the gas sector 12,000 GWh of generation supply annually. The legislation will impact gas-fired power supply not coal-burning generation, she says.

However, some sectors of industry believe that an opportunity exists for gas generation to be linked with solar thermal plant to take advantage of the Rudd government’s scheme to boost sun-based power through grants plus the market opportunities of the RET.

No real incentive

Garry Weaven, chairman of the large superannuation business Industry Funds Management, owner of Pacific Hydro, says there is “no real incentive” at present to undertake investment in new renewable energy projects in Australia at present because of the “political adjustments” to the RET legislation driving expenditure on solar hot water systems and hot water pumps.

Despite the present situation, Weaven said in an interview with Business Spectator, the renewable energy industry is “on a really big growth path”

Weaven added that Pacific Hydro is at present assessing partnership prospects with other companies to develop a number of its local renewable energy projects.

Among the projects being considered by PacHydro at present are the Carmody’s Hill wind near the ACT (up to 70 turbines and 140 MW), Crowlands wind farm near Ararat in Victoria (126 MW), Keyneton wind farm near Angaston in South Australia (up to 120 MW and Yaloak wind farm near Ballarat (30 MW).

The impact of the Federal Government’s solar hot water grant and other solar measures on the renewable energy certificate market has been marked in late 2009, with prices slumping from a high of $50 to as low as $23, making wind and other ventures unviable for development.

The Clean Energy Council has urged the Rudd Government to set a floor price for RECs but the Greens are arguing that both solar water heaters and heat pumps should be removed from the RET legislation as they are not electricity producers.

The CEC estimates that the surplus of RECs flowing from the solar support measures will be about 10 million by the end of 2009 and will “take at least two years to clear, if not longer.”  The lobby group has told the Rudd Government that some project developers believe this “bubble” could delay commencement of new, large-scale generation projects until 2014.

The CEC argues that the government can resolve the problem by removing the “bubble,” purchasing the excess RECs and holding them as a strategic buffer against future price spikes.

Five-fold wind gust forecast

One of Australia’s leading specialist renewable energy businesses, Infigen Energy, has forecast that wind farms will have five times as much capacity by 2020 as they do now.

In a presentation to investment analysts, Infigen managing director Miles George said the steady increase in wind energy investment since 2005 now sees 2,000 MW of installed capacity – and he expects this to exceed 11,000 MW at the end of the next decade.

At the commissioning of its Capital wind farm – built in New South Wales but in close proximity to the ACT market – George pointed out that the project was the largest renewable energy development in the State since the Snowy Mountains scheme unfolded a half century ago.

In its latest annual report, Infigen has observed that the introduced of the enlarge RET plus the planned passage of the emissions trading scheme could have far-reaching implications for wind power development in Australia. 

“Given the proposed design of the legislation and the price of carbon emissions allowances,” Infigen added,”Australian greenhouse gas emissions policy, together with greater international cooperation and action, is expected to result in wind energy becoming the least-cost energy generation option available to (local) utilities for new capacity (development).”

Kiwi court cans major wind farm

The New Zealand Environment Court has shocked electricity suppliers and delighted NIMBY campaigners by rejecting planning permission for a $NZ2 billion wind farm.

Plans by the largest supply business, Meridian Energy, owned by the NZ Government, to develop the 630MW wind farm in Central Otago, had obtained regulatory approval in 2006-07, but a vigorous campaign by local residents, including former members of the All Blacks rugby team, has seen the Environment Court refuse consent after hearings that lasted from May last year to February.

The Hayes project would have had sufficient capacity, when fully developed, to power every home in NZ’s South Island. The first stage would have been a 150 MW wind farm on tussock-clad Lammermoor range, 70 kilometres from Dunedin. When fully developed, the project would have featured 176 turbines, five substations and 150 kilometres of road, delivering more than 2,000 gigawatt hours of electricity a year from a 92 square kilometre site – representing three to four years of national power demand growth.

The court decision is the second major knock-back for Meridian Energy on South Island this decade. In 2004 it cancelled its proposed Project Aqua 524 MW hydro-electric development on the lower reaches of the Waitaki River after strong community resistance, including some of the identities involved in the latest court battle.

The Hayes rejection was made in a 3-1 decision by the Environment Court, with the majority finding that the wind farm would have “a detrimental impact on an oustanding natural landscape.”

Part of the driving emotion in resistance to the major developments has been resentment on South Island that the community is required to lose environmental values in order to deliver electricity to the large load centres of North Island.

At present New Zealand has 320 MW of wind farms in operation with another 190 MW of capacity under development and regulatory approval being sought for more than 3,220 MW of other wind projects.

Research for the electricity supply industry has claimed that using just one percent of New Zealand’s available land for wind power development would be sufficient to deliver 100,000 GWh a year, double today’s consumption. One of the advantages of wind power in New Zealand is its capacity to be partnered with hydro-electric systems to overcome interkittency problems.

Meanwhile Meridian Energy is now waiting on the outcome of the fifth of five appeals against its plan to build a 280 MW hydro-electric project on the lower Waitaki River by diverting water through a tunnel and returning it to the river 34 kilometres downstream. This would enable the company to increase its supply by up to 1,400 GWh a year. Four of the appeals to the Environment Court against this development have failed.

Will it or won’t it?
The Australian media have given a high profile in the past month to assertions that carbon capture and storage may not be a workable contribution to greenhouse gas abatement.

The Federal Opposition’s resources and energy spokesman, Ian Macfarlane, a strong advocate of CCS when a minister in the Howard Government, now says the technology has “passed Australia by” and “may never work.” He argues that it will be 20 years before the technology is available and 30 years before it is commercially viable.

The current Resources & Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, retorts that the technology will be available and workable if there is a sufficiently high carbon price to drive investment. The government’s Global Carbon Capture & Storage Institute, recently launched with $100 million in funding to support pursuit of the technology, says a price of “at least” $60 per tonne will be needed to make CCS commercially viable.

Victorian Premier John Brumby, whose State is currently dependent on brown coal generation for 90 percent of its electricity supply, says his government will issue a new energy strategy statement in 2010 once the fate of the federal emissions trading scheme is decided – and he describes CCS as a “crucial medium-term technology” but agreed it would “take years before it is proven and in place.”

The Australian Coal Association’s technology director, Burt Beasley, meanwhile says the industry will spend $1 billion on advancing CCS by 2016.

Finally, Tamar plant launched

After a long period of uncertainty over its redevelopment, the conversion of the originally oil-burning Bell Bay power plant in northern Tasmania to a gas-fired baseload and peaking support for the island’s electricity supply is complete.

The renamed Tamar Valley power station has had four owners this decade and has been a topic of vigorous political debate in the State.

Premier David Bartlett, speaking at the commissioning, described the $450 million project as “extra-ordinarily complex” and welcomed its development as a step to secure State supply.  The Tamar plant will be able to provide 14 percent of Tasmania’s power needs and will reduce the need for the drought-plagued system to use brown coal-fired electricity over Basslink.

Owner Aurora Energy, which is a government business, says the plant can produce 210 MW of baseload power through a combined cycle unit and 180 MW of peaking power through four smaller open-cycle units.

Bogong joins grid – after 48 years

AGL Energy’s $230 million Bogong power station in Victoria’s high country has been linked to the eastern seaboard market, adding 140 MW of emissions-free power.

The project, midway between Falls Creek and Mount Beauty, will contribute peaking power in a State where the highest summer load is projected to rise from just under 10,000 MW to 11,500 MW over the next 8-10 years.

The key feature of the development is a seven kilometre water tunnel linking Bogong to the McKay Creek hydro plant, claimed to be one of the largest hard rock tunnels drilled in the southern hemisphere.

The new power station completes a task first envisaged almost 100 years ago. A series of four hydro projects in the Kiewa Valley was proposed in 1911, but it was 1938 before work began and was promptly interrupted by the Second World War. Post-war Victorian governments developed three Kiewa stations, creating a 200 MW cascade hydro-power operation, later enhanced to 240 MW --  but Bogong (originally designated Kiewa 2) was left unbuilt until now.

Projections of a peaking power shortfall in 2001 led to renewed interest in the project and renewable energy incentives provided by the federal and Victorian governments provided the impetus for its completion.

WA clears gas hurdle

The West Australian parliament has approved legislation to change the gas quality specifications for the State’s major pipelines,bringing them in to line with the rest of the country and opening the way to a $1 billion development of the Macedon field 40 kilometres off the coast at the Exmouth.

Owned by BHP Billiton and Apache Energy, the gas field is too small at 1.2 trillion cubic feet of reserves for an LNG development but can supply 200 TJ a day to the domestic market.

WA gas prices have more than doubled since 2006, causing end-user anger and political heartburn.  The State is the most reliant on gas in Australia, with more than 40 percent of its energy needs – and 60 percent of its electricity generation -- being met by the fuel.

The “lean” gas in Macedon – it contains no condensate and has a low heating value -- has not been able to meet the tight specifications for use of the Dampier-to-Bunbury pipeline, the first step in the 1980s to launching the North West Shelf LNG development.  In practice, more gas of this kind has to be shipped to meet the energy requirements of contracts, reducing the capacity of the pipeline.

Finding a way to overcome gas supply constraints has become a political imperative in Western Australia, with the DomGas Alliance, representing users, forecasting that domestic demand will double by the middle of the next decade. The Alliance has complained that users have been unable to secure long-term supplies in substantial quantity at acceptable prices. More than $20 billion worth of proposed mining-related projects are claimed to be affected by the situation.

BHP Billiton has indicated that removal of the pipeline quality restraint could see construction of a production facility for the Macedon field get under way in 2010, with first production forecast for 2012.

‘Enormous’ geothermal potential
Federal Resources & Energy Minister Martin Ferguson says the geothermal industry is well-placed to make a successful entry in to Australian electricity supply.

Ferguson has awarded more than $150 million in grants to two leading geothermal companies to support commercial-scale developments in South Australia and claims that the support will help drive more than $535 million in investment.

Ferguson argues that commercialisation of geothermal energy will help meet three of the Rudd government’s main resources-related goals: increasing energy security through diversifying energy supplies, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and producing 20 percent of electricity consumption from renewable energy by 2020.

He awarded $90 million to Geodynamics and $62 million to Petratherm following small grants to Panax and Petratherm to assist in drilling deep wells.

Meanwhile Petratherm managing director Terry Kallis has likened the potential for geothermal to the development this decade of coal seam gas. “Beyond 2010,” he told the Australian Geothermal Energy Association annual conference in Brisbane, “the potential for geothermal is enormous.”  He also forecasts “significant” consolidation in the sector, driven mainly by funding needs as well as the need to access skills.

Kallis said 2010 will be a “watershed” year for geothermal, with activity accelerating, and David McDonald, managing director of Kuth Energy, exploring in Tasmania, added: “it’s not who gets there first, but who gets there smartest.

Road to Copenhagen
After two years of twists and turns, the road to Copenhagen is unlikely to come to a dead end, but will not produce anything resembling a new treaty on greenhouse gas abatement -- to replace the Kyoto pact that expires in 2012 --  in 11 days of formal discussions between 190 governments.

This seems to be the broad consensus of media opinion across the world despite a considerable last-minute flurry of contacts between government leaders, solemn calls for action from the UN Secretary-General and a welter of increasingly doom-laden predictions from NGOs and scientists.

Some media quote UN officials as saying that a final climate change agreement at Copenhagen is “impossible” following a failure at the last-milepost talks in Barcelona in October to achieve any progress.  Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeld, also EU President this year, came away from a meeting with Obama in Washington DC saying a deal was “impossible” because of the US Senate not reaching an agreement on the ETS bills.

Even the fallback position of developed countries – seeking acceptance by the developing economies, especially China and India, of an acceptance that there should be agreement on a long-term goal of capping global temperature growth at two degrees Celsius – seems under a cloud as this is being viewed, it is claimed in the Asian media, as oblique pressure on the industrialising countries to accept a cap on their emissions.

The skirmishes in the western world’s media between contending views on climate change policy has been enlivened in November by a hacker gaining entry to the files of the East Anglia Climate Research Unit in Britain and releasing more than 1,000 emails between UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change participants that, it is claimed, reveals a decade-long campaign to defame scientific opponents, subvert scientific journals and stonewall the dissemination of data countering their alarming predictions of global warming.  The activity has included not only campaigns against so-called “climate sceptics” (who deny that human activity is causing global warming) but also against scientists who accept the notion but object to computer models that present increasingly worse disaster scenarios.

The release of the 169 megabytes of emails and related files as a result of the cyber attack was given wide publicity in the US at a time when it became apparent that the American Senate would not conclusively debate emissions trading legislation until next year.  This means that Barack Obama’s envoys to Copenhagen will arive empty-handed because the US President has no mandate from Congress to deliver emission cuts.

This means that China, which has signalled it will not make a commitment to an abatement target in the absence of one from America,  will also be unwilling to sign up for a new agreement, other than a broad-brush communique, in Copenhagen.

Increasingly, the most likely outcome of the talks in the Danish capital looks likely to be still more warm words, but no discernible international action plan for abatement beyond January 2013.


Coolibah’s Keith Orchison now has a blog, entitled PowerLine, on the Business Spectator website at

Powering Australia yearbook

The 2009 edition of the Powering Australia yearbook, edited by Keith Orchison, has now been published and was officially launched at a forum in Brisbane in mid-November by the Federal Minister for Resources & Energy, Martin Ferguson. See for more information.

All the best

This will be the last issue of this newsletter for 2009 and Coolibah takes this opportunity to wish all readers a happy and safe holiday period and a healthy and successful new year.


Behind the hype and the politicking, a new reality is dawning on governments around the developed world, and not least Australia, as a result of the intensive effort that has gone in to preparing for the Copenhagen climate change summit.

This reality was summed up recently by a Brisbane university professor. Reacting to the Coalition front-bencher Ian Macfarlane, who has suffered a sudden attack of gloom over “clean coal” after spending years as a Howard minister talking it up, Vicktor Rudolph, a chemical engineer at the University of Queensland, said there is no doubt carbon capture technology is possible – “it’s just a question of money.”

It’s a question that cuts two ways for politicans.

First, they are faced with the need to drive up government support for energy innovation to unprecedented levels – earlier this year the Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering told the Rudd Government it should double its spending on energy R&D. 

Second, apart from taxpayers having to foot this bill, consumers are going to pay a great deal more for a more efficient electricity supply system with a lower carbon footprint.

This was brought home in October by modelling done for the Business Council of Australia by consultants Port Jackson Partners, who are predicting that national electricity prices will double by 2015 – partly as a result of pursuit of low and no emission power supply and partly because tens of billions will be spent extending and improving the networks needed to meet burgeoning demand.

Perhaps the oddest happening in politics in Australia recently has been the assiduous efforts of both the Rudd Government and the Turnbull Opposition to ignore the BCA power price claim, even though Michael Stutchbury in The Australian and Alan Kohler and I in Business Spectator have sought to draw attention to it. 

Doubling the price of electricity in 5-6 years would send a tsunami through the Australian economy – a third of all the power used is consumed by energy-intensive, trade-exposed manufacturers employing more than a million people – but the leading politicians in the country, including the premiers of States like Victoria and New South Wales, where more than half the EITE plants are based, are resolute in their determination not to talk about the prospect.

Port Jackson Partners assert that the wholesale price of electricity – the cost of generation – will double, the relatively small cost of supporting renewable energy will also double and network charges will rise almost 110 percent.

And this does not factor in the shift to a “smart grid” – with the Victorian Auditor-General pointing out in November that the cost to consumers of introducing “smart meters” in that State, the beginning of a national roll-out, has been considerably under-estimated.

At present Australia lies ninth lowest on the International Energy Agency’s list of average electricity prices for industry in the 25 developed nations. 

This is already a descent from fourth place in 2001. Doubling the end-user price here will push this country further down the list – and put local manufacturers at a further input cost disadvantage against some of their fiercest rivals in industrialising nations.

It is a hugely more important issue for workers and their families in today’s Australia than a hypothetical increase in sea levels in about 100 years time – but it is the latter than has dominated the news, driven by the fearmongerer-in-chief, Penny Wong, ahead of the renewed Senate debate on emissions trading.

The Prime Minister delivered a very long speech on carbon policy to the Lowy Institute a full week after the Business Council published the Port Jackson Partners report. It was full of high rhetoric and low politicking and touched very briefly on the costs of emissions trading, focussing solely on the alleged impact on household prices (as modelled by the Treasury, which has been resolute in hiding its working data) and the compensation the Government will offer.

Kevin Rudd, who quoted the BCA several times to boost the need for “certainty” about carbon pricing, never once referred to the PJP prediction, with its fundamental impact on the economy.  Nor did he acknowledge that, even without any cost from emissions trading, electricity prices are set to rise sharply because of the major network capital outlays – and there is no plan in place to “protect” households from that impact.

Turnbull was equally silent as he and Macfarlane strove to cut a deal on emissions trading.

What seems to me to be at issue here is the community’s right to know and right to have its elected representatives carefully debate an imminent fundamental shift in how we live, the abrupt change from a low-cost energy base.

Politically, delivering voters a soft landing while reshaping the national approach to carbon emissions and sustaining economic growth in what is being described as “an unprecedented period of complexity, change and uncertainty” for the energy industries is a very tough task – and it will not be made easier if the electorate is kept in the dark about key factors involved in this make-over.

A year ago I wrote in an opinion piece for The Australian that the key word coming up in every energy industry discussion is uncertainty.

A year later this is still true, but I would now add that the additional, and important factor, is the community’s lack of understanding of what lies ahead in energy delivery.

It is rather depressing to think that federal politicians actually are so stupid as to believe that keeping quiet about the inevitability of much higher power bills will work to their ultimate advantage.

Keith Orchison
24 November 2009

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