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Joyce’s crazy talk on our 100% renewables target is just that

By Charlotte Harper - 29 March 2017 14

A graphic the Greens used to illustrate Shane Rattenbury's letter to Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Supplied

“The ACT saying they want 100 per cent renewables is crazy.”

So said that crazy cat Barnaby Joyce on ABC radio’s AM program yesterday, leading to a war of words with ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury on energy matters.

It could’ve been worse, I guess. Mr Joyce called the comments of another Federal politician “bat poo crazy” last week.

Mr Rattenbury responded to Mr Joyce’s attack on the ACT’s energy policy, saying in a blog post shared on Facebook (and illustrated with the above image) that what was crazy was to ignore “the impacts of climate change on rural communities, including more severe droughts, bushfires and the loss of productive farming areas”.

“Crazy is throwing good money after bad by investing in coal when we know that renewables will secure our clean energy future,” he continued.

“In the ACT we are well on the way to achieving our 100% renewable electricity target by 2020, by securing contracts for around 650 Megawatts of new solar and wind generation.

“We’re proud that the ACT is now leading the country in clean energy, showing leadership when our Federal Government has dragged its feet.”

Just why the Deputy Prime Minister views the ACT Government’s plan for the capital to be powered entirely by renewables by 2020 as “completely insane” is a mystery to me, particularly in light of the current uncertainty around where Australia’s energy will come from nationally over the next few years.

We have plentiful sunshine and wind of our own in the capital region, as well as good access to renewable power sources further afield. Given the rising costs of fossil fuels, why wouldn’t we look to address our needs via solar and wind as soon as possible?

Mr Joyce has remarked that our local Labor representatives have allowed themselves to become too beholden to the Greens on this issue, but he didn’t see first hand the pride with which former Deputy Labor Leader Simon Corbell spoke of the policy he personally initiated and instituted over many years. It is absolutely a Labor policy, and one that is widely supported in this predominantly Labor-voting town. While the Greens support it, of course, and Mr Rattenbury has responsibility for its implementation following Mr Corbell’s departure from the Assembly, it was very much a Labor-driven policy rather than a Greens idea forced on the Government.

As an aside, I think it’s fascinating that Mr Joyce takes such a negative view of renewables given how integral they are to the operations of his core support base. Our windmills are an icon of rural Australia. Solar devices are a more recent addition to the farmer’s toolbox, but are rapidly becoming as essential to operations as the windmill.

As for the rest of Mr Rattenbury’s response to Mr Joyce, here it is in full:

Dear Barnaby,

After hearing you call us ‘crazy’ on the radio this morning, I thought I’d reach out to see how you’re doing in this current (warming) climate.

Let’s talk about crazy for a moment.

Crazy is denying the benefits of the ACT’s investments in renewable energy projects across the country, including the Sapphire Wind Farm, which is coming soon to your electorate of New England.

Crazy is denying the at least $10 million and up to 200 construction jobs this renewable project will bring to your local community.

As the local member for New England, I would like to invite you to join me at the upcoming sod-turning for the Sapphire Wind Farm, where you can see the real impact of this investment in renewables.

Crazy is ignoring the impacts of climate change on rural communities, including more severe droughts, bushfires and the loss of productive farming areas.

Crazy is throwing good money after bad by investing in coal when we know that renewables will secure our clean energy future.

In the ACT we are well on the way to achieving our 100% renewable electricity target by 2020, by securing contracts for around 650 Megawatts of new solar and wind generation.

We’re proud that the ACT is now leading the country in clean energy, showing leadership when our Federal Government has dragged its feet.

Renewables are the quiet achievers, protecting consumers from electricity price spikes caused by the failure of the Federal Government to modernise our electricity market.

In fact, Barnaby, our commitment to clean energy has already delivered $400 million in economic benefits to the ACT.

Crazy, right?

Yours in solidarity,

ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability
Shane Rattenbury

Pictured above is a graphic the Greens used to illustrate Mr Rattenbury’s letter to Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Supplied

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14 Responses to
Joyce’s crazy talk on our 100% renewables target is just that
wildturkeycanoe 5:58 pm 31 Mar 17

“start thinking about what would happen if the “grid went off the house” because the technology is now available to do it.”
Are you talking about people’s home solar feeding and storing the power to the grid? If so, how can that possibly be viable? If everyone is being paid as power exporters and making profit on their home solar units, how does the utility make any money to maintain the grid? Also, I think the whole network will have issues with all this power now going backwards through the infrastructure. Instead of high loads being delivered through the larger capacity lines, it will suck that power from the suburban wires, which weren’t designed to feed large loads back the other way. Any electrical engineers here with an analysis on this scenario? Also, without a baseload generator to keep frequencies in check, the network will become unstable, unsuitable for use in delicate systems.

dungfungus 10:48 am 31 Mar 17

Maya123 said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

Maya123 said :

All those people who bought quantity over quality (huge MacMansions for instance, rather than smaller more energy efficient houses) can now ‘enjoy’ the cost of heating your choice of housing, or the cold. Somehow the extra reception rooms, the home theatre, might now seem the bad choice, when the money could have been spent on better design, that uses less electricity.

In slab heating has to be one of the most cost ineffective forms I have ever come across. One of our previous rentals had in slab, which in the first quarter [August to October] cost us a wonderful $1400 to run. We ended up turning it off and only using the living area heating in winter, which still added up to quite a sum.
The natural gas heating in our new house’s living room cost us almost $600 for the first winter quarter. That was for only about 8 hours worth of use a day. It got turfed and replaced with two split systems which can run 24 hours a day and still use $2 less per day to run. It also provides cooling on top of heating and reaches both ends of the house, not just the living area.
My guess is that people with large houses and large pockets will most likely install solar with battery storage when power becomes too expensive. The higher costs for retail electricity will drive more people to go off-grid, but what does that do for the rest of the market? If less people are connected to the grid but the production and servicing costs remain the same, then prices will rise even more per household. This seems to be an inevitable eventuality and the only losers will be those who cannot afford to get solar installed. Will there come a point where it will cost too much to maintain the grid because there are too few people connected or will it simply become too expensive to remain connected for low income earners?

To me it looks like a race to the end of a national electricity grid and a move towards self powering homes and businesses. So it poses a question of where to invest spending at the moment. Do we keep throwing money at a national power grid which due to rising costs and ageing equipment will be losing its customer base, or should government start looking at stand alone solar as where money would be better spent? With the issues surrounding power distribution today, there really needs to be some research, discussion and direction from the government, not excuse making and buck passing.

I would be surprised if a badly designed (inefficient) house could produce and store enough solar energy to comfortably heat a house in winter in Canberra and to cook with. Oh course, if the house had been designed properly they would need almost no heating (most days none and only an occasional evening, and none overnight). Plus no air conditioning at all. If a house went off the grid I imagine some other way would need to be found to heat the badly designed houses. I live in an energy efficient house and produce more electricity than I use all year, but I would need to consider very carefully if I could supply my power all year, including in long rainy spells in winter. I will one day likely consider it though, when my contract with ACTEW runs out. I still have roof space for a few more solar panels to assist. In several years I think I have only heated once in the daytime, and I only heat a few nights in winter; at present mainly with a wood fired stove. (With free wood.) My house in all electric, so I would need enough power to cook with too, although I can cook on the wood stove too, as I made sure the model I chose had a cooking surface. As I get older I might heat with wood less, because of the physical challenge of finding it and bringing it home, etc.

Instead of thinking about what would happen if the “house went off the grid”, start thinking about what would happen if the “grid went off the house” because the technology is now available to do it.

Maya123 10:15 am 31 Mar 17

wildturkeycanoe said :

Maya123 said :

All those people who bought quantity over quality (huge MacMansions for instance, rather than smaller more energy efficient houses) can now ‘enjoy’ the cost of heating your choice of housing, or the cold. Somehow the extra reception rooms, the home theatre, might now seem the bad choice, when the money could have been spent on better design, that uses less electricity.

In slab heating has to be one of the most cost ineffective forms I have ever come across. One of our previous rentals had in slab, which in the first quarter [August to October] cost us a wonderful $1400 to run. We ended up turning it off and only using the living area heating in winter, which still added up to quite a sum.
The natural gas heating in our new house’s living room cost us almost $600 for the first winter quarter. That was for only about 8 hours worth of use a day. It got turfed and replaced with two split systems which can run 24 hours a day and still use $2 less per day to run. It also provides cooling on top of heating and reaches both ends of the house, not just the living area.
My guess is that people with large houses and large pockets will most likely install solar with battery storage when power becomes too expensive. The higher costs for retail electricity will drive more people to go off-grid, but what does that do for the rest of the market? If less people are connected to the grid but the production and servicing costs remain the same, then prices will rise even more per household. This seems to be an inevitable eventuality and the only losers will be those who cannot afford to get solar installed. Will there come a point where it will cost too much to maintain the grid because there are too few people connected or will it simply become too expensive to remain connected for low income earners?

To me it looks like a race to the end of a national electricity grid and a move towards self powering homes and businesses. So it poses a question of where to invest spending at the moment. Do we keep throwing money at a national power grid which due to rising costs and ageing equipment will be losing its customer base, or should government start looking at stand alone solar as where money would be better spent? With the issues surrounding power distribution today, there really needs to be some research, discussion and direction from the government, not excuse making and buck passing.

I would be surprised if a badly designed (inefficient) house could produce and store enough solar energy to comfortably heat a house in winter in Canberra and to cook with. Oh course, if the house had been designed properly they would need almost no heating (most days none and only an occasional evening, and none overnight). Plus no air conditioning at all. If a house went off the grid I imagine some other way would need to be found to heat the badly designed houses. I live in an energy efficient house and produce more electricity than I use all year, but I would need to consider very carefully if I could supply my power all year, including in long rainy spells in winter. I will one day likely consider it though, when my contract with ACTEW runs out. I still have roof space for a few more solar panels to assist. In several years I think I have only heated once in the daytime, and I only heat a few nights in winter; at present mainly with a wood fired stove. (With free wood.) My house in all electric, so I would need enough power to cook with too, although I can cook on the wood stove too, as I made sure the model I chose had a cooking surface. As I get older I might heat with wood less, because of the physical challenge of finding it and bringing it home, etc.

wildturkeycanoe 8:19 am 31 Mar 17

Maya123 said :

All those people who bought quantity over quality (huge MacMansions for instance, rather than smaller more energy efficient houses) can now ‘enjoy’ the cost of heating your choice of housing, or the cold. Somehow the extra reception rooms, the home theatre, might now seem the bad choice, when the money could have been spent on better design, that uses less electricity.

In slab heating has to be one of the most cost ineffective forms I have ever come across. One of our previous rentals had in slab, which in the first quarter [August to October] cost us a wonderful $1400 to run. We ended up turning it off and only using the living area heating in winter, which still added up to quite a sum.
The natural gas heating in our new house’s living room cost us almost $600 for the first winter quarter. That was for only about 8 hours worth of use a day. It got turfed and replaced with two split systems which can run 24 hours a day and still use $2 less per day to run. It also provides cooling on top of heating and reaches both ends of the house, not just the living area.
My guess is that people with large houses and large pockets will most likely install solar with battery storage when power becomes too expensive. The higher costs for retail electricity will drive more people to go off-grid, but what does that do for the rest of the market? If less people are connected to the grid but the production and servicing costs remain the same, then prices will rise even more per household. This seems to be an inevitable eventuality and the only losers will be those who cannot afford to get solar installed. Will there come a point where it will cost too much to maintain the grid because there are too few people connected or will it simply become too expensive to remain connected for low income earners?

To me it looks like a race to the end of a national electricity grid and a move towards self powering homes and businesses. So it poses a question of where to invest spending at the moment. Do we keep throwing money at a national power grid which due to rising costs and ageing equipment will be losing its customer base, or should government start looking at stand alone solar as where money would be better spent? With the issues surrounding power distribution today, there really needs to be some research, discussion and direction from the government, not excuse making and buck passing.

Maya123 11:59 pm 30 Mar 17

Electricity is going to keep going up. All those people who bought quantity over quality (huge MacMansions for instance, rather than smaller more energy efficient houses) can now ‘enjoy’ the cost of heating your choice of housing, or the cold. Somehow the extra reception rooms, the home theatre, might now seem the bad choice, when the money could have been spent on better design, that uses less electricity.

bj_ACT 4:40 pm 30 Mar 17

The Complexity of how the Charging for electricity by State is mind boggling (too much for me I’m afraid).

An expert I was talking to claimed that around 50% of the Electricity charges a household pays are related to new Electricity Infrastructure (mostly) and Maintenance of existing infrastructure (the other bit).

He argued that because the actual Infrastructure build of our renewable energy purchases are physically located interstate (NSW & SA) and that we are going through a current period where we are hardly building any new Electricity Infrastructure in Canberra itself….. means that our electricity prices should be well below the States (much much less).

But….. if we need to create, update or repair our ACT Electricity Infrastructure (which will happen sometime over the next decade or so) our bills will jump markedly because we are such a small market and physical region.

Is there any experts on here about how the ACT Electricity System works in Practice (not how it works in Theory) ‘in theory’ is often the way ACT Politicians from all sides discuss the issue.

The first info I could find relating to 50% of your Bill is related to Infrastructure: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/2014-04-27/5406022

chewy14 4:34 pm 30 Mar 17

watto23 said :

chewy14 said :

Thirdly, the economic benefits mentioned for the ACT are very amorphous and based less on the renewable energy and more on encouraging the companies who are providing this power to set up various offices and research in the ACT. We are all paying higher energy prices for this privilege, expected to reach over $4.5 a week per household in 2020.

I’d like to know where you got this figure from. As it is right now the electricity in Canberra is cheaper than in NSW with the so called competition in the market. The wholesale price of electricity is higher then the price the ACT is currently paying for the renewable energy it is getting.

There are still a lot of issues around renewable energy, but its only because the federal government keeps creating doubt while propping up coal miner mates. They are protecting the existing business models. Reminds me of quite a few businesses who prefer to donate to the liberal party and keep status quo so there is no real competition rather than change.

There is a lot going on and yes ideology plays a part, but the liberals are just as bad at it as the greens are when it comes to energy.

http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/corbell/2016/act-to-be-powered-by-100-renewable-energy-by-2020

Looks like I’ve undersold them, apparently $5.5 per week per household. $290 a year.

The reason NSW electricity costs are higher is almost solely due to network costs.
ie. They have to provide a network to the entire state, whereas in the ACT, Canberra is a city that has no far flung outback reaches that need to be supplied, operated and maintained.

And the money we are paying for renewables is for installed generation capacity, we are still connected to the national electricity grid and market and pay the wholesale cost of electricity whatever it is at the time. That wholesale cost incorporates the electricity generation from the renewables we’re paying for as well as every other generator that’s connected.

The reason the prices are going up is the generation capacity is becoming less reliable, gas costs are up and supply is harder to guarantee, older fossil fuel plants are coming to end of life and no one wants to invest in new ones whilst returns are so uncertain.

watto23 3:09 pm 30 Mar 17

chewy14 said :

Thirdly, the economic benefits mentioned for the ACT are very amorphous and based less on the renewable energy and more on encouraging the companies who are providing this power to set up various offices and research in the ACT. We are all paying higher energy prices for this privilege, expected to reach over $4.5 a week per household in 2020.

I’d like to know where you got this figure from. As it is right now the electricity in Canberra is cheaper than in NSW with the so called competition in the market. The wholesale price of electricity is higher then the price the ACT is currently paying for the renewable energy it is getting.

There are still a lot of issues around renewable energy, but its only because the federal government keeps creating doubt while propping up coal miner mates. They are protecting the existing business models. Reminds me of quite a few businesses who prefer to donate to the liberal party and keep status quo so there is no real competition rather than change.

There is a lot going on and yes ideology plays a part, but the liberals are just as bad at it as the greens are when it comes to energy.

MERC600 5:05 pm 29 Mar 17

In my earlier ramble the date of the editorial was not a couple of years ago, but 7 September, 2012… Doesn’t time fly

HiddenDragon 5:00 pm 29 Mar 17

Until there is an economically viable (i.e. affordable to everyone, not just people with high disposable incomes) solution to the energy storage problem, the ACT will still be piggybacking on larger jurisdictions and their “dirty”, “old” “stranded asset” (take your pick of selective pejoratives) power generation systems.

MERC600 3:15 pm 29 Mar 17

Mr Joyce is not as slippery of speech in expressing his opinions as a lot of politicians are..Mr Joyce could have easily replaced ‘crazy’ with ‘vanity’
Newspaper editors are well versed in expressing views in a way that is not so confronting, or perhaps colourful but still get the message across.

A good example was the Canberra Times editorial about the announcement of the solar farm at Royalla a few years back. The editorial was somewhat cynical of the whole thing, and ended with “ the Royalla solar farm will remain largely a vanity exercise”.

wildturkeycanoe 2:40 pm 29 Mar 17

Chewy14 – I like your style. What you said was pretty much spot on as far as I am concerned.
The ACT politicians who support this 2020 campaign have no idea as to how much our electricity will be depending on coal fired power, considering there is little to no storage capacity to capture the “free” solar and wind power we will supposedly be using. At some point, probably around 6:30PM, the polluting power generators will kick in to boost the power consumed by the average Canberra home and maintain that load until the sun comes up the next morning. If it is a windy night, perhaps the load won’t be quite as much, but still enough for Actew to charge our citizens the going rate for either coal or gas produced power.
Now if we are using 100% green power, why do our electricity bills have to be hit with this 10% increase due to the move from coal to gas as our energy source? I would have thought we’d be insulated from such a price hike. Does the current ACT government even have a clue as to what our electricity prices will be after 2020? Will they even give us the option to buy our power from interstate, if we wanted to buy more cheaply from the NSW grid at their coal prices which may be less than green power?
The whole debacle is going to be just as ineffective as the “Nowaste” campaign. We are still seeing tonnes of refuse going to landfill, despite the efforts of recycling, so where did they go wrong? Have we any confidence in this government fulfilling the promises made at the last election, or even previous elections? I think the only reason they got in this time was the lack of a decent competitor, considering everyone on the ballot paper was either aligned with Labor or Liberal ideologies.
As for Barnaby Joyce, what can I say? If he can be deputy prime minister, there is still hope for me to become an astronaut. Why do politicians spend 99% of their time throwing mud at each other and 1% trying to run the country? We could get a randomly selected group of primary school students to do as effective a job as the elected representatives who disgrace the upper and lower house. Parliament sitting times are a joke, a very, very disturbingly sad joke on all Australians.

dungfungus 2:26 pm 29 Mar 17

” Our windmills are an icon of rural Australia……..”

Where are they in the ACT?

Canberra is defined by AQIS as a rural destination so, where are “our” windmills?

chewy14 12:42 pm 29 Mar 17

Whilst the Federal government is most definitely lacking in direction in energy policy, Barnaby is pretty spot on the money here, the ACT government’s position is pure ideology over outcomes and benefits.

For one thing, any attempt to link the ACT Government’s policy to climate change is pure ideological symbolism. Even If the entire ACT is powered by renewables it will have zero effect on global climate change, which can only be dealt with by global agreements made by all countries, particularly the large emitters.

Secondly, even after the ACT government has purchased the equivalent renewable generation capacity in the national grid, the ACT will still be reliant on fossil fuel generation capacity for the forseeable future. Large scale network upgrades are necessary over decades to fully transfrom to 100% renewables which is out of their control.

Thirdly, the economic benefits mentioned for the ACT are very amorphous and based less on the renewable energy and more on encouraging the companies who are providing this power to set up various offices and research in the ACT. We are all paying higher energy prices for this privilege, expected to reach over $4.5 a week per household in 2020.

It’s also interesting to see Shane Rattenbury talking about investment in the New England electorate being a positive, when Barnaby pork barrelling the APVMA to his own electorate is a negative. The ACT government are so generous they’re into investing ACT residents tax dollars into other states. Fantastic.

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