Pressure is mounting on the government to put an end to energy uncertainty as an Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) report warns of looming power shortages over the next few years.
Opposition climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler has written about the toxic divisions on energy policy in his recent book, Climate Wars. He recognises there are challenges in the Coalition party room over the Finkel report, but says Labor will negotiate with the government on an energy framework. It wants to avoid an ALP government inheriting the policy chaos.
Responding to the government’s push to extend the life of the Liddell power station, he says Malcolm Turnbull has unfairly concluded there is only one option.
“With a proper investment framework in place, new investment that will last decades, not just a few more years … could take place. At the moment we have an investment strike and if we can’t end the investment strike then yes in five years time in NSW we will be in a position of supply shortage.”
On the future of coal, Butler says it’s still “a massive part of our system”, and while usage will go down over time, it will be a part of the system for “as far as we politically can see”.
“The problem is not old coal power plants closing, it’s that nothing is being put in to replace them.”
On alternative sources like battery power he is optimistic about their potential, while sceptical of expanding hydro power until the results of a feasibility study are produced.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra