23 Jul Coalition has an ‘open mind’ on nuclear power, Angus Taylor…
“We always approach these things with an open mind, but we do not have … a plan to change the moratorium,” he said.
The prospect of a homegrown nuclear fuel source is being pushed by several Coalition backbenchers who want a parliamentary committee to examine its feasibility.
In a later statement, Labor’s climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler said “Australians deserve to know where the government is headed on energy policy”.
“In particular, it should explain where nuclear power plants might be built, particularly since these facilities need to be sited near large bodies of water,” he said.
Mr Taylor told Parliament the government would “steadfastly focus on affordable, reliable energy for all Australians”.
He cited a “record $25 billion of renewable energy investment in the pipeline right now” and a plan to spend public money on underwriting new electricity generation. That plan includes a potential upgrade to a NSW coal plant.
Ratings agency Moody’s on Tuesday told investors that, depending on the pace of the renewable energy rollout, “coal-fired generators could retire earlier than expected”.
Such investment would require that a suite of as-yet-uncommitted renewables projects get off the ground. Moody’s says while the early-closure scenario is not the most probable, it may arise if the electricity transmission network is upgraded to allow more clean energy projects to export power to the grid, and if so-called “firming capacity” is created to back up intermittent renewable generation.
The report said that within six years, the government’s Snowy 2.0 capacity-firming project “could be key” in enabling the renewables acceleration, and hence potential early coal shutdowns.
During question time, Labor repeatedly demanded that Mr Taylor, who is also the minister for emissions reduction, admit Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution is rising year-on-year.
Official data released last month showed emissions rose for a third year in 2018.
“From year to year they bump up and down,” Mr Taylor said, before conceding to “a small increase in the last 12 months” due to liquefied natural gas exports.
Meanwhile, Research by Melbourne’s RMIT University and the University of Sydney has found that since 2010, natural gas prices have driven up wholesale electricity costs. This was largely due to the increasing marginal cost of operating gas turbines. In contrast, increasing penetration of wind and solar energy – which produces electricity far more cheaply – drove wholesale electricity prices down, and overall price increases would have been higher without renewables in the mix.
“These findings suggest that energy policy in Australia should create favourable conditions for further increasing the share of renewables in the electricity generation mix,” the researchers said.
Nicole Hasham is environment and energy correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.