Energy minister Josh Frydenberg has gone ahead with its coal-fired plans for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), introducing legislation that would allow the taxpayer-funded CEFC to invest in carbon capture and storage.
Currently the CEFC's mandate specifically excludes investment in carbon capture and storage, a controversial and expensive technology that captures the emissions from fossil-fuel powered stations and captures it underground.
Currently there's no commercially available carbon capture and storage technology available that would be feasible to implement while still providing affordable energy — unless a price on carbon was introduced, which is something the Coalition has expressly ruled out.
Australia's electricity market is in crisis. Prices soared to unprecedented levels over the summer amidst intense heatwaves and unpredictable weather — becoming almost double what they were under the Labor/Greens carbon price, according to an analysis by the University of Melbourne's Climate and Energy College.
The new legislation would allow coal-fired plants including carbon capture technology to be funded under the CEFC. "If you were to build a high-efficiency low-emissions coal-fired power station combined with CCS, that would absolutely be a project that could be funded," Frydenberg clarified, calling carbon capture and storage a "proven technology that should be made to work in Australia."
The intense heatwave that ravaged eastern and central Australia last week wasn't just bad for our comfort and electricity bills — it's also a death sentence for the already beleaguered Great Barrier Reef. The heatwave is expected to cause unusually high ocean temperatures on the reef, while newly bleached corals have been discovered off Townsville.
The Green's Adam Bandt has spoken out against the move, saying "only the Liberals would think that coal counts as a clean energy source." The Minerals Council of Australia was more supportive of the legislation, however. "The Australian coal industry supports the government's sensible policy which recognises the role of our high quality coal in helping to curb emissions," said the MCA's Greg Evans.
Currently 50 per cent of the CEFC's funds are required to go to renewable energy, while the other half can be used for energy efficient and low emission projects. However renewable energy sources are quickly becoming much cheaper than power provided either by existing coal or gas plants or new coal and gas projects. It all begs the question: why does Australia need to invest more in new coal at all?
The southern stretches of the Monaro Highway make for a wholesome pastoral drive, passing fields full of cows and golden grass swaying in soft breezes. The road winds around hills and dams, at one point tipping up and over a crest to reveal an unexpected sight — thousands of solar panels shining in the hard Australian sun.