13 April 2012 – The new conservative state pollies are having conniptions trying to outdo one another on the Campbell Newman stakes.

They’re lobbying grenades at their own green programs and promising to dismantle the renewable energy target if there is a change of government at the federal level.

Energy nabobs

The Greens say the pressure to undermine the renewable energy target, flagged this week by NSW, is coming from three major electricity generators/retailers: AGL, Origin and TRU Energy, who are using their market power to constrain the rollout of renewable energy by refusing to buy renewable energy.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has written to newly appointed Greens  leader Christine Milne to say it will investigate these claims.

Macquarie Generation also said that power generators would hold back supply of energy to manipulate prices when the carbon tax came in. (“Carbon tax hit threatens price blowout”, The Australian Financial Review, 29 February, 2012.)

“They’ve done it before”, said a letter to the editor in the same paper.

“Macquarie spiked the NSW price in 2007 (but records show that Macquarie also spiked the price before then, and since) and Torrens Island Power Station spiked the South Australian price in 2008, 2009 and 2010,”  it said.

At the same time as these alleged mean and underhanded tactics are underway, Origin has claimed the low carbon trigeneration high ground through the great work of its Cogent subsidiary.

And AGL, about to buy the part of Australia’s dirtiest coal fired power station, Loy Yang, that it doesn’t already own, has just paid $2.5 billion for development of wind farm rights in NSW.

A spokeswoman for AGL told newspapers that the company ‘‘continues to be a strong supporter of the renewable energy target and has invested over $3 billion on renewable assets over the last five years’’. ?An Origin spokeswoman said the Australian energy market was ‘‘one of the most competitive and effective in the world’’.

It’s tough being a multi-sector large corporate. Tough on the customers. Tough on the brand.

It’s tough being a voter right now too.

The NSW State Government is about to tell electricity customers in a note on their bills that the rise in energy prices will be due to the carbon tax. Another ACCC matter?

Especially when the evidence from a host of reports clearly says there’s a huge “poles and wires” issue at the heart of rising cost and compensation from the government.

This week’s Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW (IPART) estimate for the carbon price impact on electricity bills is similar to the analysis from consumer group CHOICE, the Australian Council of Social services, supported by AECOM and CSIRO research, according to The Climate Institute.

A nine per cent increase from the carbon price, is equivalent to less than $4 a week on household electricity bills, and will be offset by government assistance in 9 out of 10 households. “Most Australians will gain rather than lose, especially if they invest in energy efficiency measures for their homes,” the institute said.

The Total Environment Centre was furious and challenged the NSW Government on its call to drop the 20 per cent renewable energy target if there is a change of federal government.

TEC executive director, Jeff Angel, said the State Government was holding back on vital information on its claims blaming the tax on rising electricity prices.

“The three distribution and one transmission businesses pay annual dividends of between 44 and 80 per cent of after-tax profit to the government. This amounts to over $500 million dollars a year,” Angel said.

“As for the Renewable Energy Target, a carbon price of $23 per tonne is not high enough on its own to drive the transformation of Australia’s energy sector. The RET and other green schemes are complementary measures that will also be required to create a low-carbon economy.

“Without them, it is likely that most investment would still be in coal and gas-fired generation,” Angel said.

A $1500 air-conditioner costs about $7000 in additional network upgrade costs, he pointed out.

The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors called for rational behaviour.

Reports that the Coalition of Australian Governments meeting this week would be used to try to dismantle a range of energy efficiency measures “should be of great concern to us all,” said acting chief executive officer of ABSA, Rodger Hills.

“Programs like NatHERS, BASIX and other home energy rating programs have had, and continue to have, a tangible impact on improving the sustainability of our homes.”

NatHERS and BASIX scrapped?

Now that would be bringing on the Dark Ages indeed.

NSW falls
NSW was the last to crumble to the anti-climate fury sweeping the new coalition governments in the eastern states.

We guess that Barry O’Farrell felt miffed at the swift broadside that Cambpell Newman fired on green programs the minute he got into power.

By contrast O’Farrell, who seems like a nice kinda guy, has been slow in taking strong policy action, probably because he doesn’t want to offend anyone.

Now O’Farrell seems jolted awake and he’s unleashed some of his ministers to do the anti-climate thing and look good with mates at COAG.

The pollie whisperers have probably gotten in his ear and filled him with fundamentalist fervour and he’s now ready to strap the cargo to his own back in the cause of glory in the anti-climate hereafter. (Ignoring encouraging talk from his Environment Minister Robyn Parker on wanting to lead the country on energy efficiency for the property industry.)

These destructive explosions from Queensland and now NSW, joining Victoria, which is closer to the epicentre of anti-climate fundamentalists (The Institute of Public Affairs lives there, along with many resource industry allies), are so unfocused.

There’s so much “collateral damage” hurting many of their own political supporters and business constituents.

Let’s be positive and hope these actions are the histrionics of politicians trying to appease their purse string masters, and that, as one observer said, they know the right thing to do, they intend to do the right thing, but they just want to change its name (we wish).

Imagine that scenario. Instead of climate initiatives it will be productivity initiatives. Instead of green economy it will be new technology job creation.

Instead of greenhouse gas abatement it will be cost savings.

After all, the best weapon is an idea. And there are not many ideas as powerful as the one on the bottom line.

Carbon equals dollars.

Save carbon and make money.

Simple really.