Finkel modelling ignores new technologies, cheaper renewables

The Australian public – and the Coalition party room – are being told that the cheapest and most effective way to address emissions is to allow coal-fired power stations to remain in the system beyond their 50-year asset life.

According to the Finkel Review’s recommended policy mechanism, the Clean Energy Target, allows for coal-fired generation to support 25 per cent of total generation by 2050.

But this is an absurdity and a manufactured result. The public, or the Coalition, are being misled.

The modelling behind the report – by consultancy Jacobs – deliberately ignores new technologies like battery storage that can provide grid security and replace coal-fired generation at a much cheaper cost than gas.

It also ignores big falls in the cost of wind and solar, and over-estimates the cost to build new renewable energy plants.

The apparent oversights support the theory that the report was deliberately constructed to achieve a “political” outcome, to pave the way for some agreement within the Coalition party room.

But even with the promise of longer life for coal plants, and falling bills for consumers over “business as usual”, the Coalition is being torn apart by disagreements between the moderates and the mostly climate science-denying hard right rump.

Meanwhile, the details of the modelling, published on the environment ministry website on Wednesday, show that Australia can be a whole lot more ambitious, and could save even more money if some realistic cost assumptions were made and some technology answers dialed in.

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Giles Parkinson