We now have a 43% national greenhouse gas emissions reduction target in law. Coal-fired power stations contribute one-third of Australia’s net emissions, but they also deliver the essential ‘baseload’ of reliable continuous power.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced this week a plan that will bring forward the closure of all Queensland coal-fired power stations by 2035 (8080MW), with renewables to provide 80% of the load. Add the reported scheduled closures in NSW (8,880MW of 10,240MW) and Victoria (1480MW of 4,730MW), then by 2035 the National Electricity Market (NEM) will lose 18,440MW or 80% of our coal-fired power.
Over the same time, energy demand will grow with population, and particularly as we transition to electric vehicles (1,000,000 by 2030), so this leaves one very large hole in providing reliable continuous power.
Enter Snowy Hydro 2 which will provide 2,000MW at a price of $5.1 billion and climbing. The pumped hydro projects announced by Annastacia Palaszczuk are proposed to add 2,000MW at Borumba Dam and 5,000MW at a site in the Pioneer-Burdekin region. If these two projects come to pass, they will go a long way to plugging the gap in Queensland base-load generation currently provided by coal.
Staying on the energy theme, our friends in the gas industry have been in close engagement with the Federal Government on the threat to trigger the ADGSM to sure up domestic gas supply. Today’s announcement by Minister Madeleine King that industry and government have reached agreement provides confidence to ensure enough supply to meet domestic market needs.This engagement has been most challenging for all parties with unprecedented global demand for gas (and therefore prices) due to the Russia /Ukraine war and Russia cutting off major gas supply to Europe; the imperative to ensure we have adequate and affordable supply in Australia; the need to protect massive investments made into our gas assets; and to preserve our nation’s reputation as an attractive investment destination.
Then this week we also saw nine Coalition Senators introducing a Private Senators Bill pushing to remove the ban on nuclear power in Australia. According to the Senators ‘Australia is unique among large, developed nations with a legislative ban on nuclear power.’ The ban came about to get support to the nuclear reactor for medical purposes at Lucas Heights in 1998. Nuclear has always been a challenge in Australia - but by waving through nuclear submarines as part of the AUKUS agreement, perhaps public sentiment has changed enough to have a serious debate.
Finally on the energy front my fellow SAS Group Director Malcolm Cole and I attended the Master Electricians Australia (MEA) clean energy conference last week. There were so many take-away messages about how we are achieving this transformation in the home, in the office, e-vehicles, renewables and storage of energy, etc.
But for all the plans of the State and Federal (think the Powering Australia policy) Governments, the one key message by MEA CEO Malcolm Richards is that unless we have at least 25,000 additional apprentices and qualified electrical tradespeople within five years then the roll out of these plans will not happen according to plan. It is a huge risk, but on a positive front, the MEA along with the ETU have already approached the Federal Government on what will be needed to build our electrical workforce.