Energy Security Review 9 Oct 2016

The agreement by Federal and State Energy Ministers to have an independent review to “DEVELOP A NATIONAL ENERGY SECURITY BLUEPRINT” provides for Chief Scientist Finkel to head the review and to have two deputies. It anticipates that the review will be completed by December (see communiqué/press release by federal Environment and Energy Minister Frydenberg).

A major part of the review will consider the extent to which renewables should be used as a source of energy – and hence the extent to which main obverse of fossil fuels might have to be used. There is therefore a strong case for one of the deputies to be a scientist who has a sceptical view about the effect of using fossil fuels. This means the review should include a scientist who, while not necessarily ruling out some warming effect from emissions of CO2, judges that any warming is highly unlikely to reach dangerous levels.There are numerous scientists of that ilk. Properly structured, such a review would provide a potential opportunity to be the first government/international agency review which has at least exposed the failures of those reviews already undertaken to examine all evidence relevant to those effects.

I note here that the International Energy Agency (IEA) is in the process of reviewing what it describes as the transition to a low-carbon electricity system (see this statement in June by IEA). Note that it says “a new market design must incorporate carbon policies and renewable support into a consistent market framework”. It also asks the question – “How can the design of electricity markets influence the ability to transition to a low-carbon electricity system while maintaining electricity security? ”This implies that the IEA recognises that there is a security risk in simply assuming a complete changeover from fossil fuels to renewables.

I note also that, while Finkel does not appear to have any background in examining climate change and related matters, he is reputed to be a believer in the dangerous warming thesis. That emphasises the need for a Deputy who is not such a believer. It is important also that the review accept submissions from both believers and sceptics.

Relevant to the review is the extent to which countries are already using renewables to produce electricity. The attached table from OECD/IEA and the World Bank shows that in 1990 about 16% of world electricity production energy came from renewables and that this had risen to about 18% by 2012. Australia is shown as using about 8% in both years, which was a bit less than that in the US and quite a bit less than in France and Germany (both on 12%) but more than in the UK (only 4%). However, there are wide differences between countries and Australia is not in a position where it could be accused of having a “catch up” problem with renewables.  It is not clear whether the data includes energy from nuclear or hydro sources.

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