A Coalition government will not cause wholesale electricity prices to jump or damage the health of Australian paychecks and still meet its U.N. mandated targets to reduce carbon emissions, the prime minister has said.
“We also have an obligation to hand over a strong economy, where our kids and grandkids can get jobs.”
Scott Morrison, who is leading the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition to the upcoming federal election, said that achieving the targets that have been proposed by the left-leaning Labor opposition will come at an extra A$472 billion ($337.7 billion) cost to the Australian economy. At the same time, members of the Coalition represent contrasting views on climate policy, with some party members like Tony Abbott still publicly questioning the fundamental premises of climate policy.
However, the prime minister believes the opposition’s targets cannot be achieved without costing the economy.
A key strategy in the Coalition’s plan will be meeting Australia’s 2030 Paris climate commitments through “practical” means by working with landholders, farmers, businesses, and indigenous communities.
This includes another A$2 billion ($1.43 billion) in investment towards a Climate Solutions Fund that works with the existing Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy.
According to the government, its cash injection will help ensure that the ERF reduces carbon emissions by a further 103 million tonnes no later than the year 2030, enabling the bulk of the 26 percent emissions reduction target under the Paris agreement to be met.
“The ERF is investing in our farmers to help them revegetate degraded land, to protect existing forest areas, and to increase habitats for our native species,“ Federal Minister for the Environment Melissa Price said in the public statement. “We are working with businesses to invest in the adoption of energy efficient business practices that are reducing costs, and working with waste managers and with recyclers to reduce waste emissions.”
To support renewables, the Coalition’s package also includes more funding for the Battery of the Nation Project in Tasmania and its $56 million Bass Strait interconnector, which will provide a 1,200 megawatt boost in renewable hydroelectricity from Tasmania to the mainland.
To end the price gouging by Australia’s big, vertically-integrated power companies, the government said it is working on a plan with states and energy companies to regulate energy prices. “Gentailers” have been gaming the system by selling electricity between their generation and retail businesses at inflated prices.
“We’re absolutely on track to meet our 2020 Kyoto emissions reduction target and that’s no small feat.”
He added that after inheriting a 755 million tonne projected deficit on the 2020 goal from Labor in 2013, “we are now expecting to over-achieve on the target by 367 million tonnes–a 1.1 billion tonne turn around.”
Up to 100,000 households earning less than A$180,000 ($128,700) a year would be eligible for a A$2,000 ($1,429) rebate towards buying and installing a battery storage system. The first three years of the plan is projected to cost $140.9 million, according to forward estimates.
Labor policies will also continue to support renewables as it pushes for the eventual replacement of all coal-fired power stations.
Shorten said on Feb. 25, “Labor has a plan for more renewables, less pollution, and lower power prices and, unlike the Liberals, our plan wasn’t written by [former Prime Minister] Tony Abbott.”
The report found that the scheme has subsidised households with solar power by $538 each year for the excess solar power sold back to the grid at a premium price. Under the current RET schemes, taxpayers will end up paying $2.8 billion a year in subsidies alone for renewable energy, according to a 2017 report by economic consultancy BAEeconomics.
Under the plan, water would be pumped uphill when electricity is cheapest into a dam to be released when dispatchable energy is needed to meet shortfalls in the grid that have occurred when intermittent renewable power generators or ageing coal-power stations go offline.
“If you want to transition over time to a renewable future for energy, then you cannot do it without stations like this and stations like in Tasmania,” Morrison said on Feb. 26. “As we all know, the wind does not blow all the time and the sun does not always shine.”
With a 250 percent increase in renewable energy coming online over the next three years, Morrison said that the Snowy Hydro project will act to firm up the east coast’s power supply.
The A$4.5 billion ($3.2 billion) project will increase the capacity of the existing 4,000 megawatt Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme by 2,000 megawatts. When full, the dam stores enough water to generate over seven days of power for 500,000 homes at peak demand.
The expansion is hoped to ensure that electricity remains dispatchable during prolonged “droughts” in wind or solar power generation, which will make electricity more affordable.
Up to A$1.38 billion ($1 billion) in federal funding will be provided, while the remainder will be financed by Snowy Hydro. The government lauded that up to 2,400 construction jobs and up to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs will be created across the Snowy Mountains region as the power plant is built.