Now that the dust has settled on the Federal Election it’s time to begin the work of reflecting on what happened and where to from here.
There was no doubt that there were some marked differences in the climate and energy policy of the ALP and Coalition, with the former having a more comprehensive policy package to support the future development of our industry. In that context, the lack of coherent energy and climate policy from the Coalition Government creates real challenges for our industry.
We believe there were several key issues which influenced the Election outcome:
- While it is unclear to the extent to which climate change was a vote-changer, it was clearly a big part of the public debate in the lead-up. Predictively the ALP’s emissions and renewable energy target formed the basis of a negative attack built on cost and an uncertain economic impact, which was based on some very outdated and biased modelling.
- Many analysts and senior members of the Coalition identified the lack of coherent energy and climate policy as a political liability for the Coalition. This issue was obviously overwhelmed by the voting public’s concern about a range of other issues.
- The impact of the energy transition on jobs appeared significant, particularly in Queensland. With some Queenslander’s appearing to place a much higher value on jobs in mining and resources than for those already established in renewable energy.
- In most other parts of the country the ALP’s perceived ambivalent support for the Adani mine was seen to damage their environmental credentials.
The Election result certainly gives Prime Minister Scott Morrison a greater mandate and sense of authority. However, passing legislation through the Parliament will still be challenging for the Morrison Government, with a one-seat grip on the Lower House and the need to secure crossbench votes to get legislation through the Senate.
The Government appears to be committed to delivering its pre-election energy policy. You can read their policy in detail here.
The Government have said they are committed to the Underwriting New Generation Investment (UNGI) program, which includes 12 short-listed projects (six are renewable pumped hydro projects, five are gas, one is coal) and are expected to progress this relatively quickly. It remains uncertain if they can proceed without legislation. While we welcome government support for new generation, there are several issues we see with this policy in its current form:
- a clear lack of transparency about the program and its selection criteria
- and serious concern the program will be supporting less commercially viable proposals such as extending the life of existing or developing new coal generation.
Where to from here for the Clean Energy Council?
In light of the Election outcome, we have identified some key areas which will be a focus for the Clean Energy Council. They are:
- With record levels of investment, there has never been a better time for our industry to promote the extraordinary benefits of clean energy: lowering power prices, delivering jobs, and supporting regional communities and farmers. We all have a job to do to tell this good news story right across the country, so that all parts of the community can see the benefits of this transition.
- We will continue to highlight the significant challenge without sensible post-2020 energy and climate policy. We will work with the growing business and community sector who share these concerns and campaign for the Federal Government to address this enormous policy void. An important element of this will be highlighting the leadership and progress of other countries.
- As has occurred during other periods where Federal leadership has been missing, the States need to step up. We will be working with them to ensure sustained clean energy investment, particularly in states like NSW and QLD where there is more work to be done regarding policy commitment and implementation.
- ARENA has played an enormous role in the development of our industry. We will campaign for its extension beyond 2021 and the necessary funding for it to continue its critical work.
- As the commercial viability of renewable energy and energy storage continues to improve, the grid and energy market becomes increasingly important. They currently present major challenges and are a high priority for us to ensure timely reform. Thankfully there is already significant momentum and much of this is outside the purview of politics.
So yes, we have plenty of challenges ahead. But our industry is strong and resilient, and full of the best and brightest people. We have the people and the capacity to transition Australia to a clean energy future, and we will. But now we have work to do, so let’s get to it.