Clean energy investors are ready to build the next wave of new renewable energy and energy storage projects to meet the challenge set out in the Federal Government's latest policy statement, but policy stability along with reform and investment in the grid are crucial to providing confidence to investors.
The Morrison Government has said that it will build a new, gas-fired power station to replace AGL's Liddell coal-fired power plant unless the 1000 MW resource gap left by its closure in 2023 is filled.
Investors have delivered over $20 billion into large-scale renewable energy and energy storage projects in Australia over the last three years, and have a large pipeline of projects ready to go to replace aging coal and deliver jobs as part of the economic recovery from COVID-19. However, challenges with the grid and uncertainty in government policy have rattled investment confidence. Investors can't be taken for granted and will be concerned about another change in government policy.
"Wind, solar and storage technologies are by far the cheapest form of new electricity generation for Australia and can provide the flexible, reliable and secure generation we need," said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton.
"Gas generation is costly to build and expensive to run. The only way that a new gas-fired power station will get built in Australia is if government builds it using taxpayers' money, and that's because it's largely uneconomical when compared to renewable energy and energy storage equivalents. There's a good chance that a new plant could become a white elephant, unable to compete with firmed renewables.
"A new gas-fired power station will also take years to build. It would be far more sensible for the government to support new big batteries than gas-fired electricity generators that are high cost.
"Any government funding for a new gas-fired electricity generator would be better spent on much needed new transmission."
Today's announcement introduces further uncertainty on energy policy, particularly with the government's previous policy, the Underwriting New Generation Investment program, not yet implemented two years after being announced and is completely at odds with the government's commitment to technology neutrality.
A troubling part of today’s announcement was that the Prime Minister made no mention of the impact that this increased focus on gas will have on Australia's international climate change obligations. Following last summer's catastrophic bushfires, climate change should be a key consideration in any long-term decisions about the future of Australia's electricity system.
Thornton said that the announcement of $250 million in support for new transmission links via Project EnergyConnect, Marinus Link and a new interconnector between New South Wales and Victoria was a step in the right direction.
"Investment in the transmission backbone of Australia is the missing piece of the puzzle in the continued development of the country as a clean energy superpower.
"Australia has an enormous opportunity to leverage renewable energy as part of a nation-building COVID-19 economic response, creating jobs and the infrastructure to support Australia's future."
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Clean Energy Council Media Manager
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