Capital Ideas: Climate Change 2017

Capital Ideas: Climate Change 2017
Talks / Lecture

Solar farm
Recording date: 
15 March 2017

This is the first Capital Ideas public forum hosted through their partnership with the National Library. This podcast is a discussion on the Finkel Review and what it intends to achieve. Speakers are Helen Wilson, who leads the Government’s review; Frank Jotzo, a leading climate economist from ANU; and Grattan Institute's Tony Wood.

Energy and climate change policy remain one of the most contested and important areas of Australian public policy in 2017. The Finkel Review will report by mid-year on what needs doing to ensure the security and affordability of the national electricity market in the transition to a low-emissions future. The Federal Government will undertake its long-anticipated review of our domestic climate change policies against the emissions reduction targets to which Australia committed in Paris in December 2015. 

In association with the Grattan Institute.

Transcript

Speakers: Kathryn Favelle (K), Tony Wood (T), Helen Wilson (H), Frank Jotzo (F)

Audience: (A)

Location: National Library of Australia

Date: 15/03/2017

Typist’s notes: inaudibles caused by diction

 

 

K:            Hello and good evening. And welcome to the National Library of Australia. My name’s Kathryn Favelle and I have the great pleasure of looking after the Library’s Community Outreach Programs.

 

As we begin, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land that the Library is built on. I thank their elders past and present for caring for this land that we’re now privileged to call our home.

 

Tonight is the first event in our new partnership with the Grattan Institute, a partnership that we’re delighted to be involved in, that’s bringing public policy discussions to the National Library.

 

Since its launch in 2008 the Grattan Institute has established a profile as a leader of independent analysis of Australian domestic public policy aiming to influence both public discussion and senior decision-makers. Its focus is on the important rather than the urgent, on the things that could make a difference to the wellbeing of Australians over the long run, not distracted by three-year electoral cycles. In that way we think it’s very like the National Library of Australia, because we too are here for the long run and we take the long view in the collecting, preserving and providing access to Australia’s documentary heritage.

 

Tonight’s discussion, of course, will focus on one of the most contested and important areas of Australian public policy, energy and climate change and I think we could be forgiven for assuming that maybe the Grattan Institute has fed discussions over the past week because -  is there a more timely moment for us to be talking about energy policy than tonight? To tell us a little bit more about the work of the Institute and our guest speakers, I’m introducing tonight Tony Wood who is the Energy Program Director at Grattan. He served as Program Director of Clean Energy Projects at the Clinton Foundation advising governments in the Asia Pacific region on effective deployment of largescale low emission energy technologies and in 2008 he provided an industry perspective to the first Garnaut Climate Change Review. Please join me in welcoming Tony Wood to the stage.

 

Applause

 

T:            Thank you, Kathryn, and good evening. The – this is – as Kathryn said, it’s the first of these events. We have a similar relationship we’ve had for several years now with the State Library in Victoria and also in Queensland and New South Wales. There’s something about Melbourne people that they get confused between public policy and football matches ‘cause we tend to get a pretty good crowd these days but maybe that’s something about the nature of Victoria.

 

Thank you very much for coming tonight. I think – hopefully you’ll find this an interesting discussion. It is at least somewhat timely. I think the good news for people like me who work in energy policy is that there’s never been a more exciting time to be in policy in this country. And it certainly keeps us well and truly employed.

 

Tonight we’re going to be delving into an area that is both important, challenging and at times also quite tricky and hopefully you’ll get the feeling for some of this this evening in the way we proceed. The intention is that – and I’ll introduce Helen and Frank in a moment but Helen Wilson will discuss the climate review which in the noise of the last few weeks has been a little lost I think, that this review is actually taking place. The Finkel review is also underway and we can talk about that a little if people are interested and how that will dovetail into the climate review. But I think the climate review is a particularly important part of the government’s process of identifying how we’re going to move forward on climate change.

 

After Helen has presented her comments about how that will go and she’s heading up that review, Frank Jotzo will make some comments in regard to the review and from his perspective and I’ll also do a similar thing. We’ll have a bit of a conversation amongst ourselves to give you some time to think about the questions you’d like to ask of the panel, and also I may use two or three of the questions that we had submitted before this evening – we gave people the opportunity to do so if they wanted to do that and I’ve got some – and I won’t try and read them all out ‘cause some of them are longer than some of the presentations you’re going to hear tonight. But that’s the nature of the beast, people feel very passionate about these sort of issues, public policy issues and particularly climate change issues and I’m sure some of that will come out this evening.

 

So what I’d like to do now is introduce Helen Wilson. Helen is the First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Environment and Energy and I think one of the most interesting developments in the last 12 months was the appointment of the current Minister, Josh Frydenberg to be responsible for both areas because it was actually starting to put into practice recognition that you know what? Right now energy and climate change are actually very closely related. Now we’re still I think some ways from seeing how that’s going to play out in terms of real hard policy but I think that was an important step to have these two areas of public – of government interest under the same Minister and under the same department. But Helen’s been working in this area of climate change policy for a number of years, she wouldn’t have achieved the position of seniority if she didn’t know what she was talking about and so she’s going to share her views about how this – inform you a bit more about how this is going to play out.

 

So, Kathryn mentioned that I spent 2000 – most of 2008 working with Ross Garnaut on the Garnaut Climate Change Review and one of the people I met in that review was Frank Jotzo. Frank has a – extraordinary deep understanding as an economist of not just the Australian but also the international world of climate policy and climate economics and there’s probably very few people in Australia let alone people in the world who know more about this topic than Frank does and it’s an interesting opportunity for – to engage with this particular topic. So without more ado, let me pass that to Helen. I should by the way remind you that you can follow this - you’ll see the Twitter feed identities at the bottom of that screen there. We will also be recording this this evening and that will be available on the Grattan website probably some time in the next couple of days so again we look forward to this discussion, hopefully some debate, some interesting topics and you know I’m sure some points of view will come forward. Let me pass over to Helen Wilson.

 

Applause

 

H:            Thanks Tony and thanks for the invitation to chat with you tonight at the first ever Capital Ideas event. As Tony just said, it is a big year for climate and energy policy with work underway on both the government’s climate change policy review and the independent review into the future security of the national electricity market led by the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.

 

The Australian Government has been clear it’s committed to addressing climate change while maintaining energy security, reliability and affordability. The Department of the Environment and Energy is conducting the climate change policy review with the help of other Commonwealth departments and as Tony said it’s my division that is leading this work. We are at the start of the process for the climate change review. The government will shortly release a discussion paper inviting input and public submissions. We really do want to hear from business and the community and individuals.

 

I thought what I’d do tonight is spend a few minutes outlining what is happening globally then talk about what is happening domestically and finish with an overview on the sorts of issues that the 2017 review will consider.

 

I want to start by saying that post the Paris agreement there has clearly been a step up in momentum on action on climate change. Importantly this is not just national governments that have signed the agreement, it’s also subnational governments, it’s business, it’s cities and it’s community groups and individuals. We all do have a role to play.

 

The Paris agreement was a game-changer. As the Prime Minister has said almost a year on from the Paris agreement it is clear the agreement was a watershed, a turning point and the adoption of a comprehensive strategy that has galvanised the international community and spurred on global action. The world is moving together to reduce emissions, for example, China plans to introduce a national emissions trading scheme this year after piloting it in seven cities and provinces. They are expanding renewable generation and improving industrial energy efficiency. India has set targets to increase their installed renewable energy capacity, increase forest cover and improve efficiency of coal power generation. India will tax both imported and domestically produced coal with the revenue directed to what’s called the National Clean Energy Fund for Renewable Energy Products. Interestingly the International Civil Aviation Organisation will implement what’s called a carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation emissions from 2021. Australia and more than 60 countries will participate in the scheme and these countries together represent well over 80% of total international aviation traffic.

 

The Government is committed to Australia playing its part in the global effort. Again, I want to quote the Prime Minister who said Australia doesn’t make international agreements only to break them, they’re ones that are achievable and that we can meet. Australia is moving in step with other countries. Our 2030 target is to reduce emissions by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels. This target is comparable to other developed economies such as Japan and New Zealand. Under the Paris agreement, we will review our target every five years to ensure we continue to play our part. Businesses are also taking action; business awareness of climate risk and opportunities has grown in recent years and many of the companies I talk to are preparing for the transition to a lower emissions future.

 

The G20 has acknowledged the change in climate poses risks and opportunities for companies. The G20 has a taskforce looking at how companies can voluntarily disclose the risks and opportunities they face as a result of the change in climate. This work is already influencing Australian business practices. Individuals and households are also contributing. More than 1.6 million households have installed solar panels with the help of the renewable energy target.

 

There are a range of ways the Australian Government is working to reduce emissions. These include the Emissions Reduction Fund and its safeguard mechanism. The Fund provides incentives for business and landholders to reduce emissions and improve the environment. A hundred and 78 million tonnes of emissions reductions have been contracted from 397 projects across the country. The average price paid per tonne of abatement has been low at $11.83. The Fund is delivering other great benefits besides the emissions reductions, for example, Savannah fire management projects are providing cultural, environmental and economic opportunities for indigenous communities across northern Australia. The safeguard mechanism puts limits on Australia’s largest emitters. It covers about 50% of national emissions ensuring the emissions reductions the government purchases thorough the Fund are not offset by significant emissions increases elsewhere in the economy.

 

The renewable energy target supports households to generate solar energy and incentivises investment in renewable energy. The target will see renewables grow from around 15% today to around 23.5% of Australia’s electricity supply in 2020. The National Energy Productivity Plan is a package of measures and initiatives to improve Australia’s energy productivity by 40% by 2030. The plan brings together energy market reforms, energy efficiency measures and efforts to reduce emissions at least cost, particularly in buildings, appliances and vehicles. For example, what’s called the equipment energy efficiency program is accelerating appliance energy efficiency standards in priority areas such as air-conditioners, fridges, freezers, swimming pool pumps and lighting. These improvements could potentially save consumers hundreds of dollars a year.

 

Australia is working with other countries to encourage a global phase down of hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs as they’re known which are used in refrigerators and air-conditioners. Australia played a lead role in securing this important international agreement. The agreement will see Australia and other developed countries phase down these HFCs to 85% of current consumption levels by 2036. This global phase down will reduce emissions by 70 billion tonnes in the period to 2050 and that is equivalent to one and a third years of total greenhouse gas emissions. In July last year the government announced that it would take early action to phase down HFCs as a contribution to meeting Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target. Australia’s phase down is expected to start in 2018, a full year earlier than the Montreal Protocol start date.

 

Work is underway to reduce emissions from light vehicles. The Department is consulting with industry on measures to reduce emissions from vehicles as well as improve the quality of Australia’s transport fuels. The primary emissions reduction measure being considered under the work to date is a light vehicle fuel efficiency standard like those that operate in the EU and in the US. As well as reducing emissions these measures could cut consumer fuel costs, reduce health costs and help give Australians better access to the latest vehicle technology.

 

The government is also supporting clean energy innovation across the whole spectrum of research and development, demonstration and deployment. Australia joined the global emission innovation in 2015 and has pledged to double government investment in clean energy research and development investment by 2020. Research and development grants are provided by a range of organisations including the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the CSIRO, the Australian Research Council, and others. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation provides support to support the deployment of clean energy technologies in renewable power generation, energy efficiency buildings and low emissions vehicles. For example, one of the projects that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is currently funding is the development of energy-efficient community housing which will reduce energy costs for low income families and residents.

 

The government’s carbon neutral program helps business and organisations to become carbon neutral. This means helping business to reduce their emissions where possible and using offset units to compensate for the remainder. By becoming carbon neutral a range of businesses are positioning themselves for growth and competitiveness in a lower emissions future. Going carbon neutral often involves making operational changes that will reduce energy or fuel use. These improvements can lead to significant cost savings. There are around 40 organisations and businesses that are certified carbon neutral and these include large corporations, local councils and small business. And we’re constantly surprised by the range of businesses that are keen to go carbon neutral and ultimately this gives consumers more choice to purchase carbon neutral products and services.

 

Now I want to go back to the 2017 review and where to from here. All the policies I’ve just outlined are helping to reduce Australia’s emissions. Australia does have a track record of meeting our international emissions reduction commitments. For example we are on track to beat our 2020 target to reduce emissions by 5% below 2000 levels and we are making progress towards our 2030 target. Although progress is being made further reductions are needed to meet the 2030 target. The 2017 review is looking at the current climate change policies to ensure they remain effective in achieving our 2030 target and our Paris agreement commitments.

 

We have been anticipating this review for a few years. The government did commit to the review back in 2015 when they announced Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target. The review will consider a number of issues including the integration of climate change and energy policy, the opportunities and challenges of reducing emissions for each sector of the economy, the impact of policies on jobs, on investment, on trade competitiveness, on households and regional Australia and the review will consider a potential long-term emissions reduction goal post 2030. As I said at the start the government will shortly release a discussion paper seeking public submissions. And through our consultations to date, and I have already met with over 70 groups, businesses and individuals, business have emphasised the importance of policy, certainty and stability. They would like to see the government build on existing policies, that is what the 2017 review is looking at. There is no single emissions reduction policy that can achieve everything. A set of policies crafted to suit each sector’s circumstances can be more effective. A flexible and scalable approach to policy is also important because no one is able to predict the future with 100% accuracy.

 

Emissions are produced from a range of sectors and activities across the economy. In line with the terms of reference the discussion paper will ask for people’s views on the opportunities and challenges of reducing emissions in each sector of the economy. Energy is a particular – it’s very topical at the moment and while generating electricity is a large source of emissions, secure, reliable and affordable electricity is critical for Australian businesses and essential for households. The electricity sector is also a large employer with over 60,000 people working in the industry and many of those are in regional areas. As Tony said at the start the Council of Australian Governments has asked the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, to develop a national reform blueprint to maintain energy security and reliability in the national electricity market. I know that Dr Finkel’s review has received over 300 submissions. Dr Finkel’s recommendations on policies to address the trifecta or providing energy security and affordability while reducing emissions will be a very important input into the 2017 review but every sector will need to make a contribution to reducing emissions. The resources, manufacturing and waste sectors are important contributors to the Australian economy.

 

In looking at the opportunities to reduce emissions in those sectors the government will need to be mindful of keeping in step with the actions of other countries. We know more can be done to reduce emissions from buildings and from the transport sector. In recent years over 200,000 new homes have been built each year and the average Australian travels a total of 49km every day. There’s also an opportunity to store more carbon in the land but the CSIRO notes this will need to be managed – carefully managed to balance outcomes for water, land productivity and biodiversity. We are at the start of the review process. The advice the Department gives through the review to government will be based on what we have heard from consultation and will be based on the terms of reference. I look forward to hearing what Frank and Tony have to say now and then from taking questions from the floor. Thank you.

 

Applause

 

F:            Yeah, Helen has one of the most difficult jobs in this town at the moment, leading the government’s policy review on climate change policy. And so Helen mentioned the integration of climate change and energy policy at the federal level, that’s a very good thing indeed because that exactly need – is what needs to happen, we need to develop a clear understanding that achieving climate change objectives in the long term really is an issue of getting energy policy right. But the reason I’m saying Helen has the most difficult job in this town is that she works in an intensely political field where good policy is often trumped by the politics and it’s nothing recent, this is what we’ve seen in various guises unfortunately over a period of 10 years or so. And so, we think about the trilemma of what we want to achieve or what are three things we need to deal with in the energy sector’s reliability, affordability and low outcomes, okay? Environmental outcomes so if we follow the recent policy debate on this and reliability gets big emphasis, affordability equally gets big emphasis and we hear very little talk about the low carbon objective.

 

In one sense that’s affordable – that’s understandable in terms of you know what we saw happen over the last weeks and months in terms of reliability, it’s understandable in terms of you know the significant rises in electricity prices, the retail level that we’ve seen over recent years, much of it to do with network expansion but we should not leave sight of the longer term picture here and that is that we’re dealing with long-lived assets, we’re dealing with investment decisions that as a society we will have to live with for decades to come and we will want to avoid a situation where we’re looking back in two, three decades’ time and thinking well back in the late 2010s we made some really bad decisions that left us lumbered with expensive high carbon assets.

 

Now in terms of electricity sector it’s really central to achieving a long-term low emissions outcome. Many analysis including the deep decarbonisation pathway study that we worked on at ANU together with climate works at Monash showed that Australia’s electricity sector can be fully decarbonised, close to zero emissions by the middle of the century, this can be done relatively cheaply and this can be done in a way that is – that we have a reliable electricity grid. There’s many studies that show that. So it’s of really central importance to get that done because it’s relatively easy to decarbonise the electricity sector. Once you’ve done that then you can shift all manner of other electricity use, energy uses onto electricity so that’s really the blueprint into the future and lots of opportunity lurks there as well because we’re actually a continent blessed with renewable energy opportunities and you can see opportunities for energy industries of the future to be built on that potential.

 

But getting there seems to be really very, very difficult indeed and one of the reasons it’s so difficult is that industry has had to deal with policy uncertainty now for a significant period of time. So you know investors don’t like uncertainty, investors deal with uncertainty but require a premium in terms of the required rates of return or the interest charged on the loan and when risk exceeds a certain level many investors will just retreat and not invest at all. That’s what we’ve seen in the energy sector where the politics of energy and climate change have really become very unpredictable for investors and so we’re just not seeing that investment.

 

So what we need is credible, predictable policy approaches that last for a while so that seems kind of a nirvana but you know it’s a back and forth and incremental progress can be made. So you know as an economist I can tell you the you know the unanimous answer around the world as to what is you know the right policy instrument to use as a backbone of sensible climate policy is a carbon price, okay? Put a price on it, create a lasting and widespread incentive throughout the economy to reduce emissions and do that in a cost-effective manner. Now if you can’t do that there’s other ways of getting effective incentives into the system and a lot of the emphasis of the last perhaps two years or so, and Tony has been very instrumental in that debate, is an emissions intensity scheme, right? Which is effectively a price-based emissions reduction incentive in the electricity supply sector, okay? So fair to say that within this community there was a shared understanding that that’s not such a bad second best, okay? And also an expectation that this might be something that the two major parties could in fact in some ways not – if not agree on then at least both live with, alright? And that could have been the kernel or could still be the kernel of a bipartisan situation going forward.

 

For the time being the prospects of that appear rather dim but you know we’ve seen swings and roundabouts and things. What are the alternatives for that? Well you could think of turning the renewable energy target into a low emissions energy target which would similarly provide a uniform price signal throughout the electricity supply sector, incentivising lower carbon investment including gas. Other policy instruments that perhaps – that may well have a role in the mix are policies to facilitate orderly exit of old carbon-intensive assets so we put a proposal for a market-based mechanism for exit of high-emitting coal-fired power stations into the mix, others have suggested as should be by regulation – the fundamental point is that you know what we’ve seen with the Hazelwood closure, these announcement can come very suddenly and then they create problems in the market so the national electricity market was not designed with exit in mind. And so there’s room for positive intervention by governments to help the market anticipate what comes down the track.

 

There’s a whole lot that we could say about the need for energy market reform, it’s not altogether obvious that the national electricity market as it stands as an energy only market can really deliver to provide predictable revenue flows in a system that in the future may be dominated by renewable energy sources so there’s a lot of analysis that needs to be done and we need to better understand the alternatives and the role of different aspects of market allocation and the role that the market can play in providing revenue streams to electricity generators.

 

Now that may well take us to the question of state investment, government investment so we’ve had the South Australian announcement of government investment into a new gas-fired power station to cover those peaks of electricity demand as long – along with storage. Now what we need to keep in mind is that all of these things – remember affordability in the trilemma – cost money, in this case it’ll cost taxpayers in South Australia money, talking I think $360m for a gas plant that is anticipated to run only perhaps a few days a year. So these are questions for public policy, right? Is it a sensible decision for society to make to pay that amount of money for the eventuality of another peak pricing period in the South Australian grid? The analogy of the desalination plants, of course, does come to mind, and that’s not to say it’s necessarily a wrong decision but it’s a decision that it’s not to be taken lightly and once again there are of course alternatives, storage through batteries or in fact pumped hydro storage, you pump water up the hill and let it back down when you need electricity, are viable options and crucially are options that are in fact compatible with a long-term objective of a decarbonised electricity supply.

 

Now just on the question of how do we manage electricity demand on those hot summer afternoons, right? So we had one or two or three of those in Canberra over recent weeks and it’s interesting, actually, when you talk to the people who actually manage this so this was the first largescale episode I’m told where governments in fact resorted to what they called voluntary restrictions, okay? So there were calls to major electricity users to please scale back, okay? So for example buildings that periodically use their backup generators just to keep the generators ticking over in good maintenance were ask to run those back-up generators on those afternoons, okay? Businesses were asked to turn the air-conditioning down a bit and the estimated overall effect of these voluntary demand side measures was about in the same order of magnitude as switching the Tomago aluminium smelter off so there’s tremendous potential there and it essentially comes at very low cost and just requires some coordination and extent of goodwill throughout the community.

 

Of course looking forward you might well achieve more by providing electricity consumers with accurate price signals because when you turn on your electricity – your air-conditioner on that afternoon, the amount of money you’re paying for running that electricity, that guzzling device, is heaps less than what your retailer actually has to pay for it, okay? And so if we actually had that price signal as consumers we could do a lot more.

 

Anyway I’ll close by saying long-term vision very clear, lot of renewable energy supply can be harvested very cheaply, okay? There’s a transition issue. An important thing is not to get the short-term investment decisions wrong and really the challenge for politics and policymakers is to hang in there and argue for those good policy settings and in fact the kind of stable, predictable policy settings that a large majority of the Australian business community is asking for. Thanks very much.

 

Applause

 

T:            Frank used the word politics and policy in the same sentence and I might try and continue that theme just for a couple of minutes because it seems to me that you know we are - on the one hand you could be negative about this and look at the fact that the you know the battlefield of climate politics is sort of littered with the dead bodies of politicians who had a go and then gave up under various circumstances for all sorts of reasons. On the other hand you could also see that at times the windows of politics and policy can line up. You know the train’s passing and you might actually see through that. The problem is they don’t stay open for very long and when they open people think we’ve got lots of time but then they close and they can close for a long time. And we saw that happen in 2005, 6, probably again in 2007, 8. The first one was when you know John Howard was some might argue you know kicking and screaming dragged into an emissions trading scheme. The second one was Kevin Rudd got wound up about it in terms of the great moral challenge. Then we had - even last year climate policy wasn’t actually a big deal in the election because there was a broad expectation that we might see some alignment and industry was also as Frank said calling for that sort of clarity around policy.

 

But I guess when you’ve been doing this stuff for a while you can become very pessimistic and I’ve got my long sleeves on so you won’t see the slashes in my wrist but at the moment we’re somewhat more optimistic that this – we might actually see some things move because there are a number of things that are aligned. That means the expectations are relatively high. As Helen said the Prime Minister – current Prime Minister ratified Paris agreement which his predecessor had signed to and interestingly - what I found particularly interesting about that was that he chose to do that within 48 hours of Donald Trump being elected as President of the United States and made it very clear in the way Helen described it that Australia had made its commitment and we intended to meet that commitment.

 

The role of the Commonwealth is central to the way this plays out but of course we’ve also seen the roles of the states because we have this concept called federalism, sometimes called co-operative and notionally more accurately described as uncooperative federalism. You only have to see the pretty unedifying examples in recent times when for example the Victorian government basically said how dare you send our electricity to New South Wale – our electricity, mind you, to New South Wales and potentially put at risk the towns of Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria to understand how parochially we become. And often I find that describing energy policy and climate policy to people outside this country you need to explain that relative to most countries in the world we don’t behave like a country, we behave like half a dozen different countries all of which have our own very parochial issues and nothing brings that to the surface more quickly than energy policy.

 

Partly because this area of policy and systems are more interconnected than just about anything else and that’s why I think it is important that we have a national approach. The problem is that state and territory governments often go to COAG Energy Council meetings and say we are committed to a national approach and then do exactly the opposite and that’s unfortunately the history of the way some of these things are unfolding even today. And some of the comments you will have heard already about yesterday’s announcements from South Australia suggest that people are concerned that we’ve got another state going off doing its own thing and that will have dire consequences for everything else and even the current Minister is suggesting it may even be partly unconstitutional.

 

The Finkel Review I think will play importantly into the climate review. To some extent Dr Finkel is a mad scientist and will come up with mad scientist thinking about this but I think he’s got enough people on his panel and 300 submissions to bring him back to what will be I think important recommendations for how our energy system needs to deal with the transition to a very different environment. And inevitably that’s largely being driven by how we reduce emissions and in particular the expectation that it’s going to be difficult, although it’s not impossible, to do this without increasing substantially the proportion of intermittent supply wind and solar into our system. And I’m sure most people in this room would be aware that South Australia went from being the global exemplar of how to do this to the canary in the coal mines how not to do it, very quickly. And unfortunately that then became a magnet for political debate which plays out until this very afternoon.

 

The – I think there are interesting issues around the role of technologies and gas and everyone get really excited about technologies but I don’t think it’s actually all that important in one sense and that is that if we get the policies right we might have some chance of delivering the technologies that we need. If we start with assuming the technology we almost always get it wrong, just as if we use forecasts for policy we also get that wrong.

 

I think the discussion around what sort of policies will become important, Frank mentioned – made some comments about policy. Maybe eventually after we’ve tried everything else we’ll come back to what’s actually the first best policy but we got to try everything else first and we’re certainly so far having a pretty good go at that, we’ve tried a couple – in fact I think Australia may be the only country in the world to have tried a carbon price and then got rid of it. I think one of the important drivers yet to be tested is to the extent to which industry will become increasingly frustrated with the lack of credible climate policy, not because industry wants to save the planet, I’m sure most people in industry are not unworried – unworried? About the future of their families and their children and grandchildren but that’s not their job as industry leaders. What they are worried about is how do you invest efficiently in anything to do with resources or energy or manufacturing in this country without some form of credible policy?

 

And that brings me to the last comment, I think, is what would be the sort of minimum expectations we should have on the climate review this year? It seems to me there are at least two, one is that it should be credible. By that I mean in the context of achieving the targets to which Australia’s committed. So it needs to be seen that what was put in place is credible and it has therefore an element of longevity to provide this sort of confidence against which people can invest, knowing that it’s not going to change every little while. And secondly partly related to Helen’s comment it has to be scalable because as we – I suspect everybody in this room knows – the view is – being taken is that the commitments that were made in Paris including Australia’s don’t add up to achieving the climate objective to which the international community committed.

 

And that means by definition if that’s true then those targets will have to be revised and they’re only going to be revised in one direction and that is tighter. You know as Helen said we are already finding, broadly speaking, that our target for 2030 is turning out to be less than the target was only a few years ago for a whole range of reasons, but I think the scalability of the policy, therefore we don’t need a policy that assumes a particular view of the future because we know that that future is unknowable and therefore we have to make sure that something is scalable. So it seems to me they would be two of the absolute key criteria which we should judge the outcome of the climate review.

 

And I think finally we need to think about the way this will interact with the rest, not just the energy sector because if we assume that the energy – I mean many of the pieces of analysis you’ll see talk about well if Australia has to reduce its emissions by 26% therefore we’ll assume energy has – or electricity has to reduce its emissions by 26%. Well anyone who’s tried to stop cows burping and farting knows that’s pretty tricky and it may turn out that the energy sector has to do a damn sight more than 26 to 28% and that creates an even bigger challenge and that will be something again which I think we need to be thinking about as the policy frameworks unfold.

 

So they’re my comments. I’m just going to take my seat again and maybe put a couple of questions to Helen and Frank and please if you could consider the sort of questions you’d like to ask in the next couple of minutes.

 

Okay. I think I might – I’d like to start with Frank you know we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks almost policy by billionaire Twitter feed and there are at least we know now two billionaires who communicate via Twitter quite effectively. I don’t think the Prime Minister’s a billionaire so just put him out of the – and the other one, sorry, obviously Elon Musk and we could talk about him if you’re interested later but in particular I was going to refer to the current President of the United States and one of the questions we had submitted before this evening was what are – how does the world see the Trump presidency in terms of both impacting the global commitment to reduce emissions and what it might mean? And I guess more specifically how we might consider that in the Australian context.

 

F:            Well it’s difficult to know just what the Trump presidency will mean for the global climate effort but what we can quite confidently say is that the Paris agreement and you know what came together there in terms of an expression of the will of individual nation states to come together and work collaboratively on the climate change issue and each nation going there with their own defined targets and their own bag of actions that they have pledged, right? That effort is not being fundamentally derailed by the United States, okay? So Trump has said that the United States will rip up the Paris agreement – well they can’t do that, what they can do is withdraw from the Paris agreement within – that would take four years and you know in a sense because this is – this really doesn’t have a great deal of hard legal ramifications you know the nature of the Paris agreement is what – when nations come together and mutually reassure each other about their intent and actions, okay?

 

In that light the greatest damage if you will to that agreement has already been done by the announcement of a sort of you know intention to withdraw from it, right? You haven’t seen it fundamentally derail the last climate change conference you know so basically you know reaffirmed that things continue going their way. What it does however of course is you know this is one of the major countries taking a decidedly different tack on climate and energy policy and I think we would see the echoes of that or we’ll hear the echoes of that in many countries and you could argue that we’re already seeing them in Australia in terms of you know some positions that were - prior to the election of Trump were not really mainstream. We can hear about them on the daily radio feeds.

 

T:            Any comments about President Trump?

 

H:            Yeah look, I – again what Trump says and what he does I think you know could turn out to be very different and it is early days and from what I see when I talk to companies and when I do talk to other countries there are clear signs that international momentum in climate change action will continue so I think that’s a really hopeful and positive sign so you know I think momentum is there, it’s happening and regardless of what Trump does it’ll continue to happen.

 

T:            The other thing that seems to have not just Australian momentum but globally is broadly speaking business community is pushing now for serious change and even you know the – you’ll see even the coal industry in the United States is now going down that track. Now who would have thought, right? You know you could argue whether they have their own self-interest at heart and if they don't then I’d be very surprised and in fact their shareholders should be seriously concerned if they don’t have their self-interest at stake but I think there’s a realisation that one way or the other this is now a risk that has to be managed and you’re better off managing it than having some sort of completely unanticipated changes occurring. However what – the – in the document that the COAG Energy Council put out for the Finkel Review they put it on Alan to produce a blueprint for the security of the national electricity market so I guess I’m interested in – and I’m not sort of asking you to give away any secrets tonight about what’ll be in the discussion paper but – yes, I am – what do you see as the deliverable? Do you see a blueprint for climate policy? Do you see specifics? I mean what sort of – what do you see as the output of the review?

 

H:            I am not going to pre-empt the outcomes of the review and I’m not going to provide an opinion but as to Dr Alan Finkel and the process with the independent panel that he’s leading it is a very important input into the 2017 review. The government has been clear when it comes to the 2017 review we’re starting from where we are, we’re starting from the current policies and that does provide certainty to business. We are going to look at every sector of the economy and look at the challenges and opportunities of reducing emissions in those sectors. And I think you know as the government said we’ll consult widely and broadly with a range of people and then the advice that we provide to government will be based on those consultation and based on the terms of reference that the government released in December.

 

T:            Can I just maybe push you a little bit more on that and that is that I understand fully that the review that the Department’s undertaking won’t decide policy but would you expect that the output would be a document of some sort which makes recommendations to the government and would that be public or have – you don’t have a view yet as to what even the outcome – output would be?

 

H:            No, I don’t know beyond whether you know there’ll be a report that we make public. I mean my job and the Department’s job is absolutely to provide recommendations and advice to government. How they choose to communicate the outcomes of the review is still a matter I think for discussion and decision but ultimately how the government chooses to announce the end of the review, that is a matter for government but we are thinking through again how we provide advice. Government has said we’ll conclude it sort of by 2017 but yeah, those sort of questions on when – will there be another review report public or anything like that, they’re matters for government. The discussion paper as I said though will hopefully be released in coming weeks and that really is the opportunity for everybody to have a look and have their say.

 

T:            The other only slightly political question which I won’t push you too much on is the interaction between the Commonwealth and the states. Is there any sort of dialogue connection going on between the review that you’re undertaking and some of the activity that a number of states are doing and grappling with their own views about climate policy and how they can be better integrated? Because I think one of the problems we’re seeing previously is a lack of integration. Is that something that you can see occurring?

 

H:            Yeah, look, at my level, <inaudible> 50:26 officials’ level I am constantly talking to sort of my counterparts in all the states and territories to understand what they’re doing, to understand some of the challenges that they’re grappling when it comes to reducing emissions and in fact when it comes to adapting to some of the impacts of climate change. So yes, we will be talking to states and territories about what they’re doing and they’re certainly very interested in the 2017 review of climate change.

 

T:            Frank, do you have a view about this question about the interaction between state and federal policies on climate change more generally and even energy specifically because it seems that you know even in the last little while we’ve seen the South Australian government – although to be fair the South Australian Government did make it very clear that the sort of policies that they’re talking about would be folded into a national policy on climate change as one emerges. Now I’m sure they’ve got their own view what that should look like but what’s your view about that question as to their – extent which we end up with an integrated approach versus a disparate approach?

 

F:            Yeah so we’re seeing increasing action or at least announcement of impending action on climate change, low carbon things at the state level. ACT Government out ahead there you know Victorian state government, Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales even and so in a sense we’ve come full circle because you know towards the end of the Howard government there was a movement by the states to investigate the opportunities for state-based emissions trading scheme where a state says well if the feds don’t do it we’ll do it together in some way, right? That was quickly shelved of course as it became apparent that the federal government would in fact go ahead and you know it’s pretty clear that you know good federal solution is much preferable to state-based action just simply you know it’ll be more cost-effective, it’ll be less messy, it’ll be less subject to the political swings that you get in individual states that’ll tend to give you a bit of back and forth.

 

On the other hand of course you know you - if you consider that the federal situation in terms of this being a party political thing where one party takes one position and the other party almost invariably seems to take the opposing position, if this were to continue for quite some time to come then really at the end of the day there does seem to be a significant role for climate change policy action at the state level where in a sense you know the party – the changes in government in a sense collectively even each other out over time. Okay so perhaps that’s what we’ll see, I don’t know.

 

T:            <inaudible> 53:11. Okay so now let’s hand over to the audience. We have two microphones and we’ll try and move things around. If you could please ideally identify yourself and if you do have an affiliation. I should point out that every seat here has a small explosive device underneath it and I’ve got this button so if I need to I can easily destroy you, okay? So please don’t go on for too long in giving a speech. I do realise people have very strong opinions about some of this stuff but the idea is to get some questions and have some good discussions so please, sir.

 

G:           Geoff Lazarus, I used to head up an organisation called Climate Active Australia a few years ago so I have a bit of interest in this issue and look, I really am a bit concerned you know the theme or the title is Restarting the Debate and my view is that you know we’re a long way behind what the science is really saying needs to be done. A very strong view from the Potsdam Institute headed up by Professor Sean Hooper who advises the German government and the Pope saying – and essentially saying the Paris agreement well sort of looked and sounded good and it was better than what was expected but when you match it up with the science it’s a fail. And it’s the same view of James Hansen, the former head research officer from NASA at you know Columbia Research Centre headed up by Professor Kevin Anderson all saying that you know we really are on the verge of a global catastrophe unless the top 22 nations start to dramatically, dramatically reduce their carbon emissions and none of you actually referred to what are the scientific premises to you know what your views are. And can I just express my absolute disgust at the comments made by Josh Frydenberg and others making absurd claims that somehow there is clean coal and maybe we should be opting for a you know a new coal-based you know power station and then blaming renewable –

 

T:            Okay.

 

G:           - sorry, the renewables on South Australia –

 

T:            Excuse me, sir, have you got a question?

 

G:           That’s my comment and people can respond to it any way they like.

 

T:            Okay. Are there any reactions to the comment or do we just –

 

F:            I’d be happy to react, I mean you know it’s really clear that you know if the world is to be aligned with a two degree or less outcome then there is no role for the combustion of coal for energy or heat without carbon capture and storage, right? That’s really clear and any kind of proposal to build a coal-fired power station without CCS in the western world needs to be seen in that light, right? And so – and to be clear you know I mean coal-fired power stations without CCS are being built and have been built quite recently in other places in the developed world and you know there’s every chance that they will hang ‘round the necks of these countries in decades to come like millstones, right? They may well end up being stranded assets and so you know I mean I’m happy to be quite outspoken about this and you know I’ve talked a lot to different players in the energy industry, in the finance industry and you know I mean there’s no one who sees this as investible without a really significant government subsidy or perhaps even further than that, a government guarantee or government ownership and so that really comes to a crucial point where sort of a you know if you take seriously the proposition that there might be a government-sponsored coal-fired power station, that that is a really steep proposition to do that on the behalf of the Australian people.

 

Applause

 

D:            Thank very much. My name’s Dirk Von Derrens. My father was heavily involved in South Australian electricity just in the so-called national electricity market creation - it’s actually only the eastern states – and also in the wind power there but on a much more narrow basis I’d like to follow up two points that were made. One is the 49km per person per day that we travel. What are we doing with a substandard national web system? We – our system of – it’s just appalling the way that we’ve gone in the – and that would substitute for a lot of travel if you could have effective action and interaction at home. The second question was you mentioned that we’re going down an HCFC – the hydrochlorofluorocarbons, you said to 85% so it’s a reduction of only 15%. Is that – am I understanding that correctly?

 

H:            Is it Dirk? Sorry, did I catch your name?

 

D:            Yes, yes.

 

H:            Thanks Dirk. Look, I won’t pretend to be the expert on the NBN, I can only make one personal comment that I don’t have it in the suburb that I live in and that drives my 15-year-old son absolutely insane so I do take your point about – that you know with technology and things like the NBN we may not have to travel that 49km per day. On the issue of hydrofluorocarbons so the stat that I gave about the phase down which is – agreement will see Australia and other developed countries phase down HFCs to 85% of current consumption levels by 2036, you’re right but do think about that in terms of the amount of emissions that it’s going to result in reducing. You know the global phase down will reduce emissions by 70 billion tonnes in the period to 2050 and that is quite significant. I’m not the expert on HFCs so I don’t know what the plan is to - sort of post that period but why don’t I take that on notice for you and get back to you?

 

T:            Back there, I think the gentleman, yes.

 

A:            Yes, my name’s Andrew Bray, I’m with the Australian Wind Alliance. I’d like to ask a question about gas. Not the sort of chest-thumping that there was today, I suspect that’ll be you know easily sort of overlooked in the scheme of things but the idea and it was mentioned a couple of times tonight that gas will be an important part of the grid going forward. ‘Cause last week there was a report released by RepuTex which found that the cost of wind and solar together with the storage needed to firm up that capacity was actually now with the rising prices of gas and the falling prices of storage and renewables, was now actually below the price of producing electricity with gas.

 

So with a view to locking in you know making bad decisions in this decade that we’ll regret in later things firstly what would be the sort of policy drivers that you would need to incentivise that storage to come online? We have a RET that goes to 2020 which was – will keep renewables development going for the next couple of years but not necessarily incentivise the storage so what’s the policy driver? And secondly, you know everything that we talk about in this space is potentially hamstrung by the politics. I mean if - you guys will come up with awesome advice for the politicians but then what are the chances we’ll actually see something valuable once the political process has made mincemeat of it?

 

Applause

 

T:            I think the – for me I – second one first because I think part of the answer here is that people in industry and generally particularly energy I suppose need to be better at helping the government find answers rather than criticising the government to fix things because I don’t think that’s particularly helping. And one of the interesting things about industry and government in this country is that there’s something that people are given in the water when they leave university such that when they’re in the private sector they believe that government’s got no idea and when they’re in government they believe that industry just you know mad capitalist hungry bastards, right? And other countries don’t seem to have quite that same degree of angst between the two and until we find better ways of the two actually working together - I don’t know what happened this afternoon, I heard the result but I haven’t heard the detail of the discussion that went on between the Prime Minister and the gas industry but if that’s the beginnings of a bit better dialogue that would be a bloody good thing because it seems to me the answer is for each party to help the other out of its problem rather than to criticise the other for what they’re doing and that may be part of the solution.

 

In terms of the policy drivers for things like batteries and so forth, Frank, do you want to comment on that? Have you got a view about that issue?

 

F:            Oh it’s a really good question, right? Because – and that relates then to the role of the national electricity market in a future system that is heavier on renewables, right? And obviously storage, right? If you’ve got a storage facility, say you own a battery park or pumped hydro or storage facility then you will be looking to make your money when electricity prices on the grid are really, really high, right? And then you fill your storage back up when your electricity are low and so you live off variability day to day, week to week variability of wholesale power prices. And I don’t think we have a really clear understanding what will be the variability of wholesale power prices in the future and part of the reason we have such a limited understanding of that is that we don’t know how the power mix will evolve over time and part of the reason why we have such confusion over what the power mix will look like is that policy settings are so confused and keep chopping and changing, right? So it comes back to policy uncertainty on that. And you know I mean if you do see a case for for example state governments directly investing in energy supply infrastructure then to my mind storage facilities are a reasonably good case for that kind of direct intervention because it’s pretty clear that they will be needed in future and it’s kind of unclear to what extent the private sector will really invest in them at this point.

 

T:            The only caveat I’d put on some of this is that until someone’s done it nobody knows and I respect the analysis that RepuTex and others do about this but you know as many people have said famously or infamously all economic models are wrong and some of them are useful and I don’t know which ones are going to be useful yet but I do know that if you seriously want to have value put on fire-start gas – remember – and fire-start gas is very different from gas that runs all the time. You may not use very much but it’s there when you need it in short bursts, whether it’s pumped hydro, whether it’s batteries, who knows? What we need is a market that values that reliability and that’s something that Dr Finkel is certainly looking at. There's one question over here, yes, here, sir. Yes.

 

J:             Hi, my name’s Joe Thwaites. You’ve talked quite a lot about the politicisation of the issue which has been a huge frustration I think for everyone here. We had a Prime Ministerial thought bubble a month or so ago about pumped hydro and there’s just been a study produced by the ANU, Andrew Blake who’s the Research School of Engineering which startled me by arguing that at least in the eastern half of the country the resources are there, the sites are available to have renewable energy and pumped hydro at you know at a very reasonable cost. So I’d be particularly interested in the comments of Frank and Tony in particular if they have seen the study and if they – I mean it looks like a silver bullet so it’s probably too good to be true but what do you think?

 

T:            Frank, you try.

 

F:            Look, I mean we certainly know the study, right? And it’s a technical feasibility study and lo and behold finding that the country is in fact not pancake flat but there's lots of you know cliffs and hills and so on and so forth and all you need is 100, 200m drop with a bit of water available because the water gets recycled up and down and so that can be done. Of course you know does that directly equate every one of these sites that you can geographically identify? Does that directly equate into a site that you can actually use for such a facility? Well probably not but you know if you can use one in 50 that’s probably enough. The big uncertainty, and I think that comes back exactly to what you said, Tony, the proof is in the pudding in terms of what it actually costs to build and operate and there is one such a facility in Australia, it’s part of the Snowy Mountain Hydro, right? And so you know the - yeah, the cost data that we have from the construction of that back in probably the ‘60s is really not much use today.

 

T:            Right at the back.

 

A:            Hello, just a lay person, really, looking to understand some of the barriers for investment and entry into renewable energy into the future and just sort of reflecting and wondering who are we looking to internationally? Are there particular schemes operating at the moment that we are taking learning from or are we now in a position of taking leadership internationally in that space?

 

T:            Well I think in terms of policies everyone’s trying everything, right? We’ve tried basically everybody else’s infectious diseases a few times and some of them didn’t work and some of them have worked. We’ve used renewable energy target, we’ve used feed-in tariffs, we’re using reverse auctions. They all have perverse outcomes in a sense, none of them are actually climate policies, they’re all industry policies to support specific groups of technologies and they don’t do what Frank was throwing out as a challenge before which is basically to say we don’t you know in terms of the Prime Minister’s words we want to be someone indifferent to the technologies, let’s make sure the policies drive it so you know if that turns out to be wind or solar or solar thermal or even combinations of gas with solar thermal, those sort of things which get very low emissions if not zero then we should have policies to support that.

 

And I think we’re unfortunately not quite there yet and that’s what I think we should focus our attention – and I – to be honest with you I don’t think – you go ‘round the world and Finkel just came back from you know a two-week trip around the world. I think one of the things he’s discovered is that no one else knows how to do this any better than we – there’s no – you can’t go out there and find someone else’s answer and bring it back to Australia, we’ve tried that a couple of times and we came unstuck on that. We are in some ways out there with everybody else and therefore - and there are particular circumstances in this country that are different. We’ve got a small number of middle-size cities a long way apart. We can’t interconnect them in the same way the European countries are interconnecting their system so you can’t take wind-rich Germany and connect it with hydro-rich Norway, we don’t – unless we you know connect to New Zealand bring it a bit closer. So there’s some – we have very specific challenges. We can learn from the others but hopefully we can learn positively and rather than negatively which we seem to have done so far, I think. Right in the front here – oh sorry, it’s the one there. This one first, yes.

 

A:            Hello. I’ve had a look at some reports that – from a whistle-blower in the gas industry and particularly she was in Origin Energy and basically she was discussing a whole lot of things where Origin Energy hadn’t reported various breaches and stuff like that. My understanding is that this hasn’t been to court and it may not get to court you know but I suppose it raises the wider question of is there some way of making sure of the actual emissions that come from gas for each stage of the production cycle? So the mining of it, the exploration of it, the transport of it, conversion at the power station, etc, etc. If the emissions reported from gas are wrong it’s vastly worse than CO2 because it’s 70, 80, some number like that higher in emissions intensity than CO2 and so in fact we might be at the stage where the gas industry has higher emissions than coal rather than lower emissions than coal. So my question to all three of the panel is how do we get an emissions rating for gas in the national emissions inventory that’s - actually reveals the real emissions from gas rather than what the gas industry would like us to believe?

 

H:            Look, I’m sorry, I’m not aware of the report that you’re referring to but I will say is that Australia’s national inventory is highly regarded internationally, we have the UNFCCC coming and reviewing us regularly. The way that we measure and verify and report emissions is in line with international standards so again – I’m sorry and I didn’t catch your name – hi, I’m not aware of the report that you refer to so apart from again just assuring you that the way that the Department measures, certifies and reports emissions in all sectors of the economy is best practice, it’s world renowned, we do get reviewed regularly and again why don’t I just take that on notice?

 

T:            Don’t the – I think it’s on my CV that I worked for Origin Energy but not since 2008, I should point out, and I’m aware of the report – the issue of full lifecycle emissions is important and there needs to be integrity around that. The answer is yes, you can. As with most other emissions there’s a - combinations of actual measurement, calculations and so forth and you know CSIRO have done a lot of work on that. There are people who feel very strongly that those numbers either are or not accurate but I think it’s important that the regu – that that be transparent because it does raise concerns that people genuinely have about whether the gas emissions from this full lifecycle of extracting gas and then burning it are as low as people would sometimes claim. I think the answer is yes, you can and we need to make sure that we do but there are regulations in place to do that.

 

W:          Thanks, I’m Will Harrod, I’m from the Office of the Chief Scientist so that’s my disclosure. I wanted to ask – just go back to some of the trends in energy use and emissions so in the US for example you know gas has come in and begun to displace coal faster than anything else at the moment and also drive a US trend of lowering emissions independent of government climate policy at the moment so I guess a question mostly for Tony and Frank, do you see other trends like that that - we talked about energy storage – do you see other trends like that that governments can work with, incentivise, amplify that are currently happening without any particular policy drivers that would drive some of what we want to see and some of that transformation? I know it’s difficult to look into the crystal ball but you know what’s just happening that politicians don’t have any control over?

 

T:            Frank. Easy one.

 

F:            Yeah, exactly, there’s overwhelming trend that we see and that’s continuing and that’s the drastic reduction in costs for renewable energy, in particular solar panels but also many of the other renewable energy technologies including wind, right? And I mean this has very quickly come to a point where these renewable energies provide electricity just you know kilowatt hours more cheaply than the conventional fossil fuels for new build. Okay? So this is what we’re grappling with in Australia, is that transition from the existing build which you can operate for the most part really cheaply to the new build which is of course you know expensive because you need to invest in it but for new investments you know well very soon will be where you know in sunny places and windy places it’s really a no-brainer what you invest in and then you need to <inaudible> 1:14:12 storage. And often overlooked. So big technology trend is energy efficiency, right? I mean – and again you know we talked about projections and how difficult it is to get projections right and one of the factors there is that you know it was always predicted that Australian residential and business electricity demand would keep growing because you know we have an economy that keeps growing, population that keeps growing so our electricity demand will growing. Well no so essentially because of energy efficiency which has been improving tremendously and which still has a very, very long way to go so that’s a really positive trend, I think, both of those.

 

T:            Okay, there’s one at the very back and that might – okay.

 

D:            I’m Dan Barbulescu from Energy Storage Rights.com. When policies are volatile businesses should hedge themselves. There are a lot of available technology to convert fossil fuel assets like open pit mines or depleted oil reservoir into energy storage assets like compressing water or air into a closed mine or converting like Genex Power, converting two lakes into hopefully with pump hydro. They have money put aside in their balance sheet for environmental cost after the reservoir is depleted, why they are not using this money to convert the assets into green renewable assets?

 

T:            So the question’s about why we’re not using abandoned mines for pumped hydro effectively, is that what you’re –

 

D:            Yes.

 

T:            My understanding is there is one being tested almost as we speak in North Queensland. And the broad comment that Frank made about – and response to this point about ANU study is that there is a very active – lot of work being done to look at the potential for those sort of sites. The pumped hydro issue is not a technology question, it’s all about can you find the combination of the right geography, somewhere near where you can have solar or wind, somewhere near a transition line and can you make the economics work? And that’s what some of the feasibility studies that the government’s currently funding are intended to address. I think there are interesting potential possibilities here. I’m not sure they’re going to save us any more than I think Elon Musk is but we’ll see.

 

Okay, look I don’t know, we should bring this to a close. Can I firstly thank Helen and Frank for being with us and sharing their views and particularly for Helen as anybody knows, the role of a bureaucrat in an area that’s as tricky as this is a challenging one and Helen has certainly managed to weave her way through that with some degree of aplomb. Secondly can I thank the Library? This is the first of our events. There will be more and I would ask you to either check out the Grattan website or register with us as a member or with the Library. I’d also recommend the ANU under Frank’s leadership, the Crawford School also runs public forums sometimes in conjunction with us as well. And finally can I thank the staff who helped us, both the Library staff and the Grattan staff for putting this together and finally thank you very much for turning out in such a great number and with your questions and thoughts for this evening, I think it’s been a success from our perspective and hopefully we’ll see you again soon. Thank you very much.

 

Applause

 

End of recording

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