Finkel Report set to redefine Australia's energy future

ATMOSPHERIC: Steam plume from an Australian power station. Photo: Nick Moir
ATMOSPHERIC: Steam plume from an Australian power station. Photo: Nick Moir

A REVIEW of Australia’s electricity market is due to be handed down today by chief scientist Alan Finkel, widely tipped to instigate a bipartisan end to Australia’s decade-long climate change squabble and put downward pressure on household energy budgets.

The Finkel Review was commissioned when state and national energy ministers were seeking solutions to perceived electrical supply and security issues in the wake of significant blackouts in other states.

A Low Emissions Target (LET) will be a key element of Finkel’s analysis.

Seeking detail

Federal member for Wright Scott Buchholz said that the most important approach to any LET is balancing energy stability and affordability, with the aim of keeping emissions low in the future. 

“I know household budgets are stretched and we need to make energy more affordable,” he said.

“People can’t afford to have their electricity constantly going up, so that’s a big part of the measure I’ll use to consider any new scheme.  

“I look forward to seeing the details and considering the merits of any proposal. 

“There’s some suggestion that a LET would work better than the renewable energy target, and open the way for clean coal and other energy sources, so I’m open to seeing what is proposed and how it will affect energy prices, and making my judgement then,” he said.

According to federal member for Forde Bert van Manen, it’s time to act on air quality.

“Australia should always seek to manage dangerous emissions such as carbon particulate pollution to ensure we maintain a clean and healthy atmosphere,” he said.

Wait and see

Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt said the ALP will wait for the recommendations of the Finkel Report before deciding how to vote on it.

“Everyone but the government agrees an EIS (Emissions Intensity Scheme) is the best policy for affordability and security of supply.

According to Senator Watt, federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg and prime minister Turnbull can't keep the hard right of the Liberal Party in check.

“It is costing all Australians,” he said.

“The only reason we’re talking about something other than the right policy, an EIS, is because Turnbull is too weak to stand up to the radical right wing of the Liberal Party.”

Trump shock

Leadership on climate change took a dramatic turn last week with the announcement by president Donald Trump that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, a 2015 consensus on greenhouse gas mitigation and the impact on national economies, which is planned to start in 2020.

Mr Buchholz said he’ll act in the interests of people he represents.

“I’ll leave it to others to act in what they believe are the best interests of the people they represent,” he said.

“Australia is part of the Paris Agreement and our aim continues to be fostering strong economic growth and creating jobs, while at the same time meeting our long-standing goal of lower emissions.”

Mr van Manen described Mr Trump’s announcement as his prerogative as US president.

“President Trump has made a decision which he believes is in the best interest of the US,” he said.

“We will continue to pursue our emission reduction targets as previously committed to by successive Coalition governments.”

Energy price wars 

A local gas price war was recently reported by the Times, revealing a vast difference in the prices locals are paying for the same 45-kilogram cylinder of gas, suggesting that when there is adequate competition between suppliers, prices remain competitive.

Some perspective about state and national uptake of renewable energy in homes and businesses was also reported.