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The Energy Debate
The time for submissions to the Finkel Enquiry into the national energy market closed on Friday.

Among submissions lodged that day was one from the Energy Policy Institute of Australia (EPIA) which has been lobbying hard for adoption of its policy as part of the package to be taken to the COAG Energy Council when it considers the Finkel Report.

The EPIA stresses the need for speed in the development of a comprehensive energy plan for Australia.

In its opening paragraphs it says: “To avoid the difficulties and delays associated with legislative reform in nine jurisdictions, the COAG Energy Council should immediately undertake two reforms:

•“First, the COAG Energy Council should widen its own mandate to include an agreed national energy vision and all related policy priorities, and

•“Second, the COAG Energy Council should appoint a Chief Planner, with the appropriate mandate, powers and resources to guide the implementation of the national energy vision and undertake the long-term planning functions for the national power system and its associated infrastructure, including its interaction with the national gas system.”

The EPIA believes that the plan should be technology agnostic but that the Chief Planner should develop a 30 year plan for energy supply based on a range of technologies that are most suitable for various geographical and other site specific factors.

The work of the Chief Planner will need to be integrated with the other players in the national energy market: the Australian Energy Regulator; the Australian Energy Market Organisation; and the Australian Energy market Commission.

Once seamlessly integrated then these organisations should be accountable to the COAG Energy Council.

The Energy Debate Part Two: Going Nuclear

It is a long time since the French nuclear tests in the Pacific and the British tests in South Australia at Woomera, but Australians, in general still have a great difficulty coming to grip with the idea of nuclear technology, whether for power or medicine.

Lucas Heights in Sydney keeps a low profile and the protests over its activities and location appear to have died down.

In the meantime the SA power black outs and the brown-outs along the east coast during heat waves this summer have reignited the discussion about coal and gas however, in an age of emission reductions, these technologies face trenchant opposition.

The PM and his government are committed to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and stability and predictability for the energy markets.

This policy approach comes at a price: it does not attract new corporate investment except in the renewables sector and their integration into the present grid and regulated market presents unsolved problems.

In short, we have an unstable system with uncertain prospects that no one takes the responsibility to solve.

We do not need a fix, we need a long-term vision and solution.

For example, as previously discussed, SMRs (small modular nuclear reactors) could make up for most shortcomings in the present system, provided Australia as a nation is prepared to have an international nuclear technology industry and to develop a new supply chain comprising education, private and public industry innovation and investment and waste storage.

The mix would need some flagship companies that would further develop existing technologies that are available for sale now, for example the Toshiba-Westinghouse technology.

These would open the international market for Australia and enable Australia to control its nuclear materials cycle.

This would also enable greater security for nuclear safeguards. It will be interesting to see what the Finkel review recommends when it comes to nuclear energy.

Roger Hausmann

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