Friday, October 21, 2022

Government-owned electricity generation: What could possibly go wrong?

Dan is going to close all the coal-fired power stations. Not a single word about what will happen on windless nights and overcast days

A re-elected Andrews government will take back control of the state’s electricity grid and effectively end coal-fired power generation in Victoria in little more than a ­decade through a ­re­newable energy target of 95 per cent by 2035.

Ahead of the November state election, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the new policy on Thursday, prompting warnings from energy experts that returning electricity generation to state hands could increase power prices, expose taxpayers to massive fiscal risk, and even make the government’s renewable energy targets harder to reach.

The plan was condemned by energy generators as a “back to the future” announcement and “retrograde step”, but was backed by the Electrical Trades Union as a “fantastic development” for Victoria.

It follows a joint Albanese-Andrews government “rewiring the nation” announcement earlier this week – which aims to fast-track Victorian renewable energy zones and offshore wind development – and the launch earlier this month of the NSW electricity infrastructure road map. And last month, Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $62bn energy plan, which includes a renewable energy target of 80 per cent by 2035.

Mr Andrews claimed his policy would “deliver cheaper power bills and lower greenhouse gas emissions” in a state that is currently dependent on coal for 60 per cent of its power. He also took aim at the Kennett Liberal government for selling off the SEC amid Victoria’s post-Cain-Kirner Labor government recession in the 1990s.

“The Liberals sold off public power assets to private, for-profit companies. They sold off Victoria’s essential services and sent much of the profits offshore – with the generators alone making $23bn in profits at our collective expense,” the Premier said.

The plan to revive the SEC would give Victorian taxpayers a 51 per cent stake in the commission and its wind and solar projects, at an initial cost of $1bn.

Mr Andrews said industry superannuation funds were the government’s preferred investment partners for the remaining 49 per cent.

“Unreliable, privatised coal will be replaced by clean, government-owned, renewable energy,” the Premier said.

“We’ve already taken soundings from the super industry and to say they are excited is an understatement.”

A new SEC office will be established in the Latrobe Valley town of Morwell, in Victoria’s east.

Labor is facing electoral challenges from the Greens in at least three inner city seats, and is targeting the seat of Morwell, following the retirement of independent former Nationals MP Russell Northe.

Mr Andrews announced new renewable energy targets of 65 per cent by 2030 and 95 per cent by 2035, bringing forward the government’s net-zero emissions target by five years, to 2045.

He also estimated the initiatives would increase gross state product by about $9.5bn and support 59,000 jobs through to 2035.

The Andrews government says the new SEC will be responsible for generating 4.5 gigawatts of renewable power – the equivalent replacement capacity of Loy Yang A, Victoria’s largest power station, which is being closed by AGL in 2035, a decade earlier than previously planned.

The owner of the Loy Yang B coal plant, Alinta, said its staff were shocked by Thursday’s announcement, given the generator had been due to remain open until 2047, but will now be forced to close 12 years earlier.

Alinta chief executive Jeff Dimery said the company had taken “strong steps” to prepare for the transition to renewable energy, “but we need to understand more about how the government intends to manage the cost of the expedited transition, protect communities and workers, and support us to invest in the re­placement generation required to keep the lights on in the state.

“Our immediate priority and focus will be supporting our employees at Loy Yang B who will be understandably shocked by this announcement,” Mr Dimery said.

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said the announcement, with recent statements by the federal government, Queensland and NSW, demonstrated a renewed push by state and federal governments to “renationalise” the power sector.

Mr Wood argued governments had effectively made a call that markets could not be trusted to deliver an increasingly volatile transition from coal power to clean energy.

“We just have arrived at a position where the ministers whose governments contributed to the problem have concluded that the markets cannot deliver what they want, someone has to take control and it should be them. They are probably right,” he said.

“That means that the risks now sit with governments and some combination of taxpayers and consumers.

“I suspect that, despite the claims that this will all reduce power bills, the most likely casualty will be cost – although delivering the targets might be a close second.”

Green Energy Markets analyst Tristan Edis said he suspected the policy would be “good politics as voters with rose-tinted glasses experience large hikes in their power bills, warning that state-owned power companies “can be incredibly ruthless, profit-oriented operators”.

“Some have been big blockers of emission-reduction policies. They have regularly exploited their market power (with) network charges higher than needed (because they’re) used to raising state government revenue. (They) ain’t saints,” Mr Edis tweeted.

Australian Energy Council chief Sarah McNamara said the move was a “back to the future” announcement and “retrograde step” which would damage market and investor confidence.

“The surprise announcement contains little detail but looks likely to chill private investment and see Victorian taxpayers carry the lion’s share of risk around new generation,” Ms McNamara said.


‘Reverse racism’: Fury as iconic Mount Warning hike closed forever

This was done under Leftist influence. The Left just love racial discrimination. Hitler put them off it for a while but it has roared back in the guise of Critical Race Theory in America.

Mount Warning national park is Crown land, the property of the Australian people as a whole. Giving control of it to some of the descendants of people who once lived there is a bureaucratic decision, not a constitutional reality. There is no obstacle to removing the exclusivity of use.

When will the Left learn that racial discrimination is obnoxious?

The decision to permanently close the iconic Mount Warning hike has prompted furious backlash and claims of ‘reverse racism

It’s been labelled Australia’s “next Uluru” and the decision to permanently close the famous Wollumbin/Mount Warning hiking trail has drawn widespread backlash.

The Tweed Valley tourism Mecca and its 1100m-high peak is the first place in the country to catch the day’s sunrise.

However those picturesque views and challenging hours-long hike are a thing of the past for visitors after the NSW government revealed on Thursday it would permanently close the attraction and even ban images promoting the famous mountain.

The site will be handed back to its Aboriginal custodians.

Representatives from the Wollumbin Consultative Group, which represents a range of Aboriginal groups and families with a connection to the site, say public access is not “culturally appropriate or safe”.

Despite already being closed since 2020, largely due to the Covid pandemic, the future of the Wollumbin/Mount Warning hiking trail remains a polarising issue. readers were torn over the future of the site, with 93 per cent voting they opposed its permanent closure, labelling it ‘reverse racism’ and a backwards steps toward inclusion.

Here is what both sides of the debate said:

Vanessa Alia said it’s time to respect the traditional owners of the land. “Heaven forfend we should actually respect anything about the culture of the people whose land we stole … because we’re a bunch of toddlers who think we’re entitled to anything and everything,” she wrote on Facebook.

Monica Dixon added: “I climbed Wollumbin many years ago. I didn’t know the cultural significance of the site. I’m glad that I know now, and I wouldn’t do it again.”

While agreeing with the handover, David Layt questioned if it could still remain open. “It is cultural land & should be with the indigenous custodians. But would be great if we can come to an understanding so all can enjoy.”

Tanique Brim used history in her case. “People forget before colonisation, we had a lore! And many sacred areas aboriginal people can’t go to unless approved by elders. just because it’s beautiful, you don’t need to be there! We are spiritual people who have the right to close any sacred area, it’s been like that since dreamtime. Government tried to erase our lands, language and culture.”

James S. Doyle wrote: “Anyone actually from the Tweed valley understands very well why its closed. It’s been completely over run by half wits from the city.

Before everyone gets all opinionated speak to some of the rescue staff who were having to go up there every night of the week at 3am and rescue fitness camp people who got into “trouble”. Not to mention the trashing it has got with garbage.”


Phillip Di Bella led the charge of those arguing that the closure would drive a wedge between communities.

“Totally disgusting and further building divide amongst all Australians! Woke taken to another level and unfortunately it won’t be the end!!!!”

Trish Jenkin agreed: “We are one. What utter rubbish. This is all division. We the white Australian has lost all rights to everything my Father fought for in WW2 and this is only the start. Australia Day and Anzac Day next. Watch this space.”

However Teresa said keeping it open would be the best way to produce a positive outcome: “Respect, yes. Close, no. By having it open, there are more opportunities to celebrate indigenous culture. I am pretty sure First Nations people climbed it for thousands of years.”

Brendan John backed her up.

“Surely keeping it open would allow visitors to become aware of the cultural significance closing it ensures the story is never told. Seems to defeat the purpose.”


Labor told not to waste its golden chance to tackle Australia’s housing crunch

The Feds can do only so much. The big blockage to new housing developments is local councils

Labor has a “golden opportunity” to tackle the country’s housing crisis in its first budget next week, but risks wasting it by focusing on only one half of the equation.

Urban Taskforce Australia said the government’s election commitments on affordability were primarily targeted at incentives for buyers and more social housing.

“While welcome, this does not address the underlying issue – that housing supply in Australia has fallen well behind demand and urgent reforms on the supply side are needed to improve housing outcomes for more households,” the group’s boss Tom Forrest said.

Ahead of Treasurer Jim Chalmers delivering his maiden budget on Tuesday, Mr Forrest called for him to take “pro-active steps to boost private market housing supply”.

Current measures will only see demand increase while doing little if anything to address supply shortages, he said.

“Boosting demand with packages to assist those on low incomes alone is nothing but an offer of fools’ gold if housing supply is not significantly increased. It actually pushes up the price of new homes.”

A sustained lack of supply will increase demand for social and affordable housing, placing even the lower end of the housing market out of reach for many, he warned.

“So, while social and affordable housing is clearly necessary, given the current state of the market, greater focus needs to be applied to fixing the cause of the problem and not just the symptoms.

“The cause is the lack of supply and its failure to meet the demand for homes. The symptoms are rising home prices, declining affordability, increasing rents, and increased demand for social housing, resulting in increasing homelessness and poverty.

“It is time governments treated the cause.”

Sydney’s housing market is the most expensive and competitive in the country, whether someone is looking to buy or rent.

The New South Wales capital is also the “economic engine room of the nation”, Mr Forrest said, making the supply of affordable homes for key workers a critical issue.

But projections by the Department of Planning and Environment show a little over 150,000 new homes will be built in the next five years.

That’s well below the 40,000 per year – or 200,000 over five years – that the NSW Housing Strategy predicts will be required.

The latest data shows that supply constraints are getting worse. In the 12 months to June, new housing supply fell to just 24,641.

“That’s 28.7% below the prior five-year average, which in itself saw the housing supply crisis emerge,” Mr Forrest said.

“This means we are almost certainly heading for the DPE’s ‘low growth’ scenario for Greater Sydney, which predicts that only 143,475 new homes will be produced between 2021-26.”

That would leave a shortfall of more than 60,000 required dwellings, putting significant pressure on prices.

Tuesday’s budget is expected to focus on funding measures for Labor’s election commitments.

This includes the Help to Buy shared equity scheme for 10,000 people a year, the Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme for 10,000 eligible participants a year, and the Housing Australia Future Fund to build 30,000 new social and affordable homes in five years.

Delivering on those promises as quickly as possible is a “sensible” approach of the government, Mr Forrest said. “But there is an urgent need for focus on supply-side stimulus.”

Urban Taskforce Australia has released a five-point plan to drastically improve the housing supply across the country:

It includes the immediate reform of tax constraints on the emerging build-to-rent sector, including GST tax credits that currently aren’t available for five years.

The plan also calls for increased incentives for superannuation funds to put their enormous investment potential behind affordable and key worker housing.

Local councils should also be rewarded for overachieving in housing supply by linking infrastructure grants to performance targets.

Mr Forrest said the government should also expand the use of low-interest bonds via the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation for the delivery of private sector housing supply projects.

And finally, the states that increase the flexibility of planning systems to fast-track high-yield housing supply developments should receive financial rewards. Conversely, those who don’t should be penalised.

Build-to-rent offers an opportunity to drastically increase housing supply. Picture: LIV Newstead in Brisbane/Mirvac

“Supporting those who are struggling is in the DNA of the ALP,” Mr Forrest said. “But offering demand side assistance can only work if the supply side is also addressed.”

The Commonwealth holds most of the big levers when it comes to addressing housing supply, he said.

“Labor’s first federal budget in almost a decade is a golden opportunity to signal to state governments, [councils], and the private sector that it is prepared to be part of a collaborative solution.”


New coal mine approved

The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water has granted New Acland Coal its water licence, clearing the way for the mine to reopen and for New Hope Group to start hiring hundreds of staff.

The decision comes about a month after it was granted a mining lease.

The water licence comes with 35 strict conditions, including that NAC offsets underground water impacted by mining activities by surrendering equivalent water entitlements.

It must also monitor the impacts on aquifers and groundwater users, implement an underground water monitoring program to track any impacts that may occur and publish the volume of underground water taken.

New Acland Coal general manager Dave O’Dwyer said the mood at the site was ecstatic. “It is great news,” he said. “When the head office rang me up this afternoon I was a bit taken aback,” he said.

Mr O’Dywer said the team had some environmental processes to move through before he could hire new staff. ‘We are hoping within a few months we’ll be moving dirt,” he said

“We have worked so hard to get this far and there has been huge support from the community and through our expressions of interest portal.

About 800 people have put their hand up to work at the mine, with the vast majority coming from the Darling Downs.

All the water used at the site will be trucked in from the Wetalla Waste Water Treatment Plant in Cranley.

The water licence governs the incidental interaction with groundwater.

Mr O’Dwyer said while he expected the licence would be approved, he didn’t think it would happen so soon.

“We have had some interaction with the department talking about some things but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly,” he said.

“We wanted to be sure the department went through its due diligence and we are really happy it has worked through that process and come forward with an answer for us.”

In December 2021, Queensland’s Land Court recommended the granting of the mining leases and issuing of a draft amended Environmental Authority for the Stage 3 development, subject to certain conditions being met.

Earlier this year NAC was granted a mining lease for Stage 3, which will see operations run for at least 10 years and employ an estimated 600 workers during construction and 400 during operation. It also means the area of mined land will roughly double.

The final approval comes after a 15-year battle between the mine’s owner New Hope Group and a collection Oakey farmers and residents.




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