ANDREW CARSWELL: Europe’s no bull energy solutions expose Australian policymakers’ climate folly

Andrew Carswell
The Nightly
Europe’s no bull energy solutions expose Australian policymakers’ climate folly, says Andrew Carswell.
Europe’s no bull energy solutions expose Australian policymakers’ climate folly, says Andrew Carswell. Credit: Simon Lehmann/PhotoGranary - stock.adobe.com

It bears not thinking about when you’re frying up your breakfast omelette.

Until you hear the benefits.

Desperate to wean itself off Russian gas, Denmark is raiding its farmyards for a new source of energy, steadily replacing its natural gas with renewable gas, derived from, umm, animal poop.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

And it’s no bullshit. Well, actually, it is, literally.

While denigrating gas is the sport for obstinate governments like in Victoria, the Danes are building their future energy supply around gas, switching from natural gas to zero-emission biomethane, which now makes up 35 per cent of its gas network. It will be 100 per cent renewable gas by 2034.

There was a time when Europe was trendy.

When political and business leaders from around the globe would flock to sit at the feet of its suave leaders turned climate preachers, absorbing every idea to preach to the unconverted at home. Climate policy is written and authorised by Europe.

We don’t seem to do much of that anymore.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, January 24, 2024. Former News Corp chief executive Kim Williams has been announced to replace Ita Buttrose at the ABC. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
The moment Europe started doing sensible things on energy and climate, the Albanese Government started seeing other people. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

The moment Europe started doing sensible things on energy and climate, the Albanese Government started seeing other people. The Victorian Government can’t even bear to look at Europe anymore. Oh, how their idols have fallen.

Australian governments were once happy to gallop hard to catch up with Europe’s energy and climate ambitions, but when European nations started pulling on the reins, desperate to avoid a reliability cliff, Australia just kept galloping.

But the energy rethink is on, with Europe quickly realising the importance of putting all energy solutions on the table, and not being so bloody-minded in the pursuit of solar and wind.

This switch-up has largely focussed on the counter-productive nature of restrictive renewable energy targets, a renewed affinity with nuclear power, and the turbo-charging of renewable gas.

The French have finally seen the light on the lunacy of pursuing 100 per cent renewable energy, dropping its target and increasing its nuclear power capacity in deference to wind and solar.

Last year Sweden changed its legislation to define nuclear energy as renewable, thus ensuring wind, solar and hydro will only need to get to 70 per cent to meet the country’s 100 per cent renewable energy target.

In response to an impending reduction in baseload generation capacity, Rishi Sunak’s UK is firing up more natural gas plants; generators that will eventually be powered by renewable gas, realising that a world entirely of wind and solar is a world of intermittent energy.

The inherent danger of the Federal and Victorian governments’ narrow view of renewable energy is becoming abundantly clear.

While Europe is tacking back to the land of sensible, our two most left-leaning governments are doubling down on their two-play strategy, subjecting the country to excessive policies birthed out of their stubborn adherence to strict renewable energy targets.

This is the problem with setting high targets: You eventually have to meet them. And when you’ve spent a few years paddling furiously on the spot, you are forced to make fast and loose decisions just to meet the target. And it clearly doesn’t matter how economically damaging those decisions are or how much pain they cause Australians, as long as we meet our precious targets.

Strict targets lead to reckless policy decisions.

Victoria is ground zero for dumb and destructive energy policy. The departure of Dan Andrews has done nothing to dampen its determination to leave an indelible mark on the State: one of bankruptcy, blackouts, and a departing manufacturing base.

Last week, the Government’s stubbornness reached new levels of sham, when it locked its residents out of consultations on where the State will build new transmission lines for its solar and wind projects, says Andrew Carswell.
Last week, the Government’s stubbornness reached new levels of sham, when it locked its residents out of consultations on where the State will build new transmission lines for its solar and wind projects, says Andrew Carswell. Credit: Romolo Tavani/Romolo Tavani - stock.adobe.com

Legislating a 95 per cent renewable energy target in a State that draws in excess of 60 per cent of its energy from brown coal only authors more reckless policies, such as the State’s gas substitution roadmap; aimed at kicking households and businesses off natural gas and bribing them to go electric.

The policy is deeply counter-intuitive to the State’s emissions ambitions: Let’s push people off gas and put them on an already unstable electricity grid which will require the State to burn more brown coal, for another decade or two.

Slow clap.

It is almost like meeting the renewable energy target is the actual goal, and not the provision of reliable and affordable energy.

Last week, the Government’s stubbornness reached new levels of sham, when it locked its residents out of consultations on where the State will build new transmission lines for its solar and wind projects. The only avenue left for aggrieved landowners is challenging decisions in the Supreme Court, at their own cost.

This rush to meet high targets is also forcing the Albanese Government to ramp up its recklessness, from crisscrossing prime agricultural land with transmission lines, endangering fishing and tourism with offshore wind, costly interventions in the natural gas market, and a fuel emissions standards policy on steroids.

Building wind and solar capacity is of course essential, given Australia’s geography and climate. But ignoring and demonising other credible solutions like nuclear and renewable gas that will deliver a more stable grid, and a more diversified energy mix is driving Australia towards an undignified era of energy fragility.

It also risks leaving the Government in isolationist territory, having denigrated the very solutions being embraced and re-embraced by a continent that understands a thing or two about energy security and stability.

But who really cares what those folk in Europe are doing anymore?

Andrew Carswell has clients in the energy sector. He is a political strategist and former adviser to the Morrison government.

Comments

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 24-06-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 24 June 202424 June 2024

What a climate change. Albo takes punt on this once pro-nuclear Liberal to lead his renewable energy battle.