'Old energy interests' and politics hit energy transition: Garnaut

17 March 2017

Over the past decade, one of the most difficult and fractured policy areas has been climate change, energy security and power prices. Just before the 2007 election, former Liberal Prime John Howard belatedly embraced a price on carbon and emissions trading and in 2009 Malcolm Turnbull also supported emissions trading. That was before he was dumped as Liberal Opposition leader.

Seeking to hammer out a national consensus between state and federal governments, economist Professor Ross Garnaut was appointed to head up the Garnaut Climate Change Review, which in 2008 and 2011 backed the option of pumped hydro storage from projects like the Snowy Scheme.

These days, Ross Garnaut is chair of Zen Energy, one of four companies lodging tender bids for the world's biggest battery tender project in South Australia. On its pitch to build Australia's largest battery storage plant in SA, Professor Garnaut said, 'we have done the work, we have a very good product, and we are well prepared'.

Asked if he thought the playing field was level given recent publicity surrounding Tesla, Professor Garnaut said 'we expect the decision to be made on its merits'.

Professor Garnaut said he supported more use of pumped hydro in Tasmania and the Snowy, but there are 'big questions about competition policy linked to the ownership of the asset'.

On the shift of the energy grid to zero emissions, Professor Garnaut said, 'we are a bit late, there has been stronger resistance here from old energy' and the politics.

'The resistance of established interests makes this disruption [we're seeing now] inevitable. It's a very big change'.

He said if Australia had kept a price on carbon, 'we would have a better balance between coal and gas and renewables'.

'We are not making the regulatory reforms necessary in the national energy market'.

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Fran Kelly, 2017, 'Old energy interests' and politics hit energy transition: Garnaut, RN Breakfast, viewed 28 March 2017, <http://apo.org.au/node/74514>.

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