Despite the government still considering his proposal for a clean energy target (CET) – after endorsing his other 49 recommendations – Chief Scientist Alan Finkel is optimistic the CET remains firmly on the agenda.
Finkel’s challenging task has been to put forward a scheme to bring Australia’s energy market into the future, providing certainty for investment and supply. His plan has required a balance between appeasing consumers on prices and meeting Australia’s commitments on climate change.
This is made harder by the desire of many in the government to push on with developing new “clean-coal-fired” power stations, a term Finkel describes as “a murky concept”. “There is no prohibitions in any of our recommendations. The government has to decide whether to license new technologies,” he says.
Asked about the concept of “reverse auctions” – better called competitive tenders – he says this is “widely recognised to be the most cost-effective means of bringing the lowest cost solution into the market”. But that’s dependent on the wisdom of the entity running the auction rather than the wisdom of investors.
Overall, Finkel acknowledges there’s a hard road ahead for policymaking on energy. “Transitions are always painful,” he says.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra