The Australian electricity market has become a stinking swamp covered with a tangled net of treaties, laws, rules, obligations, prohibitions, targets, taxes and subsidies. The swamp conceals the rubble of demolished coal generators; another plant destined for destruction (Liddell) is gradually sinking in the green ooze.
The swamp is slowly claiming paddocks of subsidised solar panels that, at best, only work for six hours per sunny day. The scene is uglified by spec-built regiments of ailing wind turbines that are often idle, but sometimes whirling madly. To distract the gullible media from this mess, big diesel generators charge a gigantic battery which pumps water uphill and then lets it run down again. A garbage dump of dead lithium batteries fills a nearby gully and the swamp is fenced by locked green gates.
The stagnant water is stirred on sunny days by luxury launches carrying academics-with-models, green media evangelists, climate alarmists, emissions inspectors and power regulators. Speculative sharks constantly patrol the swamp snapping up every smelly subsidy morsel scattered by politicians in posh yachts fishing for votes.
Helicopters full of unelected UN officials hover overhead, creating choppy waves of uncertainty. A pleasant hill overlooking the swamp houses the air-conditioned offices of the power regulators. They have no windows to the world and few power engineers; they stare at screens, run models and press buttons.
The way out of the energy swamp is to retrace the way we got in.
First, get to the root of the problem – UN Climate Alarmism. Disown the Paris and Kyoto Treaties and dump all the obligations, costs, hobbles and distortions they have created. Stop their pointless war on carbon energy. Carbon dioxide does not control climate but it does support all life on earth.
Abolish green energy targets and renewable energy certificates – they belong in museums beside the WW2 ration cards.
Then de-fund and boycott the rotten core of climate alarmism - the UNIPCC. Shun their never-ending climate conferences and cease funding all of their green tentacles. Cancel the tax exempt status of political activists posing as honest scientists.
Then unravel the electricity regulations mess. Stop politicians from banning or promoting their energy favourites – speculators should be free to build wind, solar, geothermal, wave, coal, gas, nuclear or pig-poo power generators free of all special taxes, subsidies and market mandates. But no electricity distributer, retailer or consumer should be forced to accept unreliable or expensive electricity.
Then abolish all guaranteed returns on inflated capital for those who gold-plate power lines and poles, or expect big returns on under-used connections to remote wind farms or other green energy toys. Consumers should not be saddled with these hidden green taxes.
All electricity producers and retailers should face competitive market prices, get no special subsidies and obey the same tax laws. But they should be encouraged to enter into long term contracts to supply base-load or peak power at agreed prices. Such contracts could underpin construction of new reliable generation capacity.
De-centralise decision making. Politicians should stop backing losers. Test energy theories properly by letting green states go deep green on intermittent energy, while others place their bets on long-term contracts from new HELE (High Energy Low Emissions) running on solid reliable black “fossil sunshine”. Allow isolated communities to try sealed transportable nuclear power packs.
The choice for our crippled electricity industry is stark – swift surgical reform and practical innovation; or let the lights go out as our once-cheap-and-reliable grid drowns in the smelly regulatory swamp.
Viv Forbes is a geologist and financial analyst. He has solar panels on his farm shed and grid power connected but no other vested interest in power generators except as a consumer. He holds shares in a small Australian mining company exporting coal to Asia, and earns intermittent income from economic analysis and breeding meat sheep.
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