Energy Minister right on renewables and climate, wrong on gas

New federal energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg has indicated a significant shift in energy policy for the Coalition in the lead up to a COAG energy council meeting on August 19.

Minister Freydenberg has said that more renewable energy will be required with the decline of coal. The Minister has also called for more gas supplies and suppliers and for gas moratoria to be removed–a move that would unleash a strong community backlash.

Friends of the Earth are encouraged by the positive comments on renewable energy but urge the new minister to support bans on risky onshore gasfield development.

cam“Mr Frydenberg correctly notes that renewables are not to blame for recent high electricity prices in South Australia” said Cam Walker of Friends of the Earth Australia.

“Unlike the new federal minister for resources, Matthew Canavan, Mr Frydenberg accepts mainstream climate science and the fact that humanity’s actions are driving global warming. He says that we need a diversified energy mix, that the national Renewable Energy Target (RET) is ‘set in stone’ – which will stabilise the investment environment for renewables, and has ruled out further tax payer subsidies for fossil fuel generation.”

“These moves are all to be welcomed. And while Mr Frydenberg is a long-standing supporter of nuclear power, he acknowledges that our country should not move towards domestic use of uranium unless there is ‘bipartisan support.’ It is difficult to imagine the majority of Australians would ever support a domestic nuclear reactor,” added Walker.

Friends of the Earth’s Coal & Gasfield Free campaign has been building consensus among farmers, small businesses, and regional communities for a permanent ban on unconventional gas in Victoria. The minister’s call to lift gas moratoria is at odds with this powerful community movement.

“Minister Frydenberg is profoundly out of step with the community in calling for an end to the current moratoriums on unconventional gas. In Victoria, 73 regional communities have declared themselves ‘gasfield free’.”

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Community declarations indicate deep-seated opposition to fracking and drilling. Most of the declared areas are in Coalition held seats and advocacy by the federal minister for state governments to lift the ban will damage the Coalition’s credibility in its core consistency.

“A well managed national electricity grid and diversity of renewable sources plus enhanced use of storage technologies, means that gas is not needed as back up for wind and solar. The argument that gas is a bridging and back-up fuel is out dated. We now have 21st century renewable technology which can meet our electricity needs.”

“Mr Frydenberg says that the decline in the use of coal is ‘not a bad thing.’ To be consistent with mainstream climate science, it is clear we must keep the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous global warming and have a hope of keeping overall warming under 2oC. Further mining and export of any coal is unjustifiable in the light of known climate science.”

“At the domestic level, the hard work in the next term of government will be to start the orderly closure of existing coal fired power stations. Mr Frydenberg notes that around the world emissions intensive power stations are already closing down. His legacy as Minister should be that he was the one who had the foresight and leadership to begin the transition here in Australia.”

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It is clear that we are witnessing an attempt by fossil fuel interests and their boosters in the media to influence the new minister and damage the reputation of renewable energy.

“The fossil fuel sector’s attack on renewables has muddied the waters of energy policy,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson.

“Communities stand ready to defend renewables and want state and federal energy ministers to stand up against bullying from fossil fuel interests.”

An upcoming meeting of the COAG Energy Council on August 19 presents an opportunity for state and federal government policymakers to develop a plan to grow renewables, strengthen the NEM, and protect farmland from risky onshore gas.

“State and federal ministers can strengthen the NEM by adopting a plan to rollout renewable energy and battery storage at the upcoming COAG energy council meeting,” added Ewbank.

“The meeting is an opportunity for the Turnbull government to endorse state initiatives such as the ACT and Victoria’s competitive renewable energy auctions.”

TAKE ACTION:

  • Join the renewable energy defence… Jump into the social media debate by using the #DefendRenewables hashtag.

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