11
Oct
2016

Explaining Adoption of Renewables Policy

How Our Political Parties Adopted Their Renewables Policies

As expected, various “explanations” of the South Australian blackout and the role played by the use of renewables continue unabated.

The most important is the revelation that the Federal Labor Party’s policy on renewables appears to have been framed initially in a pub by a Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN) whose membership included a Wilderness Society campaigner, Felicity Wade. LEAN adopted an international report by Climate Works which had the aim of achieving zero emissions from fossil fuels by 2050 (see Labor’s Pub Policy on Renewables). This involved an internal fight within the Labor party, with the CFMEU opposing its adoption and Shorten describing it only as an “ambition” with the details to be worked out by 1 October 2017. But the SA blackout appears to have forced Federal Labor to formally adopt the 50% renewables target by 2050 now and there have been similar “forced” effects on Labor State Governments’ renewable policies.

The adoption of and adding to Australian targets has in fact so far involved a process of “follow the leader” internationally on climate change discussions and supposed agreements.  A target of 5% was initially created in 2001 by John Howard and subsequently strengthened by Labor to “at least 20 per cent by 2020″. The Climate Works body was established by the Myer Foundation and Monash University to support policies to reduce emissions of CO2. Although the targets seem to have been adopted for political reasons and any analytical backing has been limited, there will be considerable difficulties in unwinding them now that they have been established. A truly independent inquiry would help, but the one established by Energy Minister Frydenberg would need to have a scientist as Deputy who is a sceptic. The apparent increase in sceptism about global warming might help, but there is no sign of change in attitudes of world leaders.

South Australia Rejects Help Offers

Also reported today is the refusal of South Australia to accept the offer by the Federal Government made immediately after the blackout to transport four generators via RAAF aircraft (see SA Blackout RAAF Offers Generators). The generators had been in Tasmania after the temporary failure of the Basslink connection to provide electricity. The report indicates that the SA government advised that the network would be restored quickly and there was no need for federal help. Yet power remains out in key areas and Energy Minister Koutsantonis has warned that the state faces possible more blackouts because of its energy mix of more than 40 per cent renewables (see SA Blackout Still Continues).  Note also that Koutsantonis refuses to accept his Ombudsam’s ruling that he must release a detailed submission by Alinta Energy to keep a power station operating. This seems to confirm that the SA Government’s decision to adopt a policy involving 40% of renewables was politically driven and lacked proper attention to the risks involved.

It is a bit surprising that no possible electoral challenge has yet emerged: although Labor has a 26 to 21 majority, this includes two independents who have been made phony cabinet ministers. The handling of the blackout certainly provides the case for an election.

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