Why Labor don’t want a fact-based debate on energy Take Note of Answers


I’d particularly like to start by pointing out that, when people keep quoting these supposedly independent reports, the Australian public must always ask: what were the constraints placed on the report that people can make?

We’ve seen a recent example with the Australian Law Reform Commission report which the government is citing as an ‘independent report which guides its action’, yet the head commissioner who wrote that report, after publishing the report, said in a conference, ‘This is not the result we would have liked to have delivered, but we were constrained by the government’s terms of reference, which align with their policy.’

So we need to look at the constraints that these other agencies have and then compare them with reports that come from overseas agencies.

When we hear the rhetoric from those opposite—including from Minister Wong today, who says that nuclear power is the most expensive form of energy, and she quotes the figure $600 billion—we have to then look at their own reports that they commissioned, such as the CSIRO’s GenCost report, which says it’s about $8.65 billion for a run of nuclear reactors. When you round that up, that’s about $60 billion.

Compare that to the work that was done by the University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and Princeton University called the Net Zero Australia project, which is a detailed scientifically based analysis of the cost of the renewables-only plan that the Albanese government has endorsed. What they say is that it’s an estimated commitment of between $7 trillion and $9 trillion.

Let that figure sink in.

Worst case, even the exaggerated boast of Senator Wong was $600 billion. More likely, according to the CSIRO, it’s in the order of $60 billion. But, according to the Net Zero project, the Albanese government wants to spend $7 trillion to $9 trillion. If you break that down on cost, you’ll see that businesses and residents would be paying so much more.

The key takeaway from the Net Zero project was that the clean energy infrastructure investment represents 65 to 77 per cent of the total capital required. Let’s look at independent bodies, like the OECD. The International Energy Agency worked with the OECD to produce a report that was published in April 2022. On page 37, it says:

… the costs of reaching net zero with high shares of variable renewables are likely prohibitive.

And why? It’s because of the overbuild required in terms of the distributed nature of variable renewables, as well as the infrastructure costs of all the additional transmission lines and the batteries to firm.

These are independent bodies, internationally recognised, who are saying that the assertions from those opposite are clearly not right. They also say that it’s going to take far too long. And, yet again, in that same report, on page 40, it says:

… historical and recent experience show that under the right policy frameworks and a robust programmatic approach, nuclear power can be a low-carbon technology with rapid delivery times and with the highest rate of annual increase of electricity generation per capita …

If you look at the UAE and what it has achieved in terms of the amount of clean energy in a decade, it dwarfs the amount of energy over a decade that the EU has achieved with its massive investment in renewables.

Rather than dealing with the facts of the matter, we see lots of assertions and, more concerningly, we even have the Hon. Patrick Gorman, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, using his office resources to send out letters to members of the coalition, with little cartoons of what a reactor might look like, inviting us to come to his office and stick it on a map to show where we’d like the reactor to be so that they can mount a scare campaign with communities.

That shows that the government is afraid to engage in a fact based discussion, to take into account all of the evidence from around the world, not only of that which is done by scientists and researchers but of the lived experience of countries such as Canada that show that, as the OECD in the IEA report, long-run nuclear power is the cheapest form of grid-scale electricity for a nation.

And because new nuclear, which is on a par with grid-scale solar for new build, will run for nearly five times the length of solar, it is the cheapest, it is reliable and it is quick to install.