“Remember the trilemma – affordable, reliable and cleaner energy? It’s like a three-legged stool – balance on just one of those legs for too long and eventually the stool topples over. The energy system breaks – and it breaks badly”, Energy Australia MD Catherine Tanna argued at this year’s Australian Financial Review National Energy Summit.
Ms. Tanna is concerned that the Morrison Government’s staunch emphasis on affordability will throw the system out of kilter; and reminded delegates about the impact of a depressed wholesale market earlier this decade which saw companies struggling to make a case for investing in reliability.
“With prices low and seemingly under control, emissions became the consuming goal. Then old coal plants were closed at short notice. The shock was felt around the country. Remember South Australia? In 2016 the nation watched in disbelief as an entire state’s energy system went black.
“Lessons of the recent past have been hard earned yet our rule makers are forgetting what they already know”, she added.
Ms. Tanna echoed the concerns of Dr. Kerry Schott, architect of the recently deposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG), who told delegates she is now stuck in the “anger stage” of grief following its “death” earlier this year.
While, Dr. Schott admitted the NEG wasn’t necessarily the sole solution to meeting the nation’s energy challenges, its emphasis on sustainability (in conjunction with affordability and reliability) was crucial, she argued.
Their concerns were aired after newly sworn Energy Minister, The Hon. Angus Taylor MP, freely told the Summit audience that his sole KPI from Prime Minister Scott Morrison was to lower power prices for Australian households and businesses.
While the Minister did reiterate Morrison’s former comment that the Paris Agreement target could be met “at a canter”, maintaining affordability whilst keeping the lights on was clearly the dominant Federal rhetoric.
Industry representatives also seemed to be firmly balancing on the affordability leg with Alinta CEO Jeff Dimery favouring the voices of his customers during this “noisy period”, who have unsurprisingly told him that “the number one issue is price”.
In sharp contrast, Adam Bandt MP of the Australian Greens took a staunchly environmental perspective, describing coal as the “new tobacco”; and suggested that decisions to ignore IPCC recommendations and prolong the retirement of current coal-fired power stations, or worse, create new ones was to knowingly put lives at risk.
More than 400 high-profile delegates turned out for the debate, which made a significant impact on Australia’s ongoing transition towards clean energy.
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