In an inversion of the social hierarchy of Yes Minister, it would appear that Australia has at least one courageous public servant – ACCC Chair Rod Sims.
When it comes to energy generation Sims has shown remarkable fortitude and has belled the cat a number of times, including calling-out the price gouging of the Queensland government through their publicly-owned electricity utilities.
His latest act of heroism is the ACCC Electricity supply and prices inquiry final report which is a tacit acknowledgement that current strategies for CO2 abatement will not work at an affordable price.
It is the best analysis of the energy market that we have, and must lead to a rethink of the role of the AEMO, AER and AEMC. These bodies have comprehensively failed and pushed Australian power prices up to unsustainable levels.
The report also calls into question the NEG, proposing a role for the federal government to provide stability through the provision of stable baseload power generation.
The role of the Chief Scientist, Mr Finkel, must also be under review as it shows how ineffective his Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market was.
It also means that the states should wind-down their subsidy schemes for wind and solar and hand control of these matters to the Commonwealth government. With a national electricity network the decisions in one state impact on the prices paid by consumers in all states.
Many on the left, including the Opposition, are pointing to market failure as a problem, but what the ACCC reveals is the real problem is regulator failure.
In an ideal world the ACCC proposal for the federal government to underwrite the construction of new baseload power is suboptimal, but a regrettable necessity in the current situation. It is likely to be less costly than building Snowy 2.0 to deal with the vagaries of increased penetration of wind and solar.
Another implication of the report is that Australia, and the world, also needs to adopt a new approach to CO2 abatement: intermittent energy will not power the world, even with storage.
Not only has the current approach led to unsustainably high power prices, but CO2 world emissions are still growing, and after an approximate 10% decrease since 2005, so too are Australia's.
It's likely that any decrease in Australian emissions is due to higher power prices creating a degree of de-industrialisation. But as we consume at ever increasing levels, the amount of CO2 embedded in our economic production and consumption is probably higher than it was in 2005.
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