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Energy Co-Ordination And Planning Amendment Bill 2018 - Second Reading

Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Tags: Energy, Electric Vehicles

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, the Greens will be supporting this bill but we have a few things we would like to comment on in Committee about the details of what this bill is planning, which is to formalise the MOU arrangement in legislation between the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator in its role as monitor and assessor, and its ability to have access to information regarding storages from Hydro Tasmania. The bill will also establish a new role of an energy coordination and assessor and it provides the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator with powers as assessor under that act.

The reasons for this bill are pretty much two that I can think of. One is the abject management and planning failures of this Government under previous ministers, and the other is climate denialism. We can sum it up succinctly like that. If only things had changed. It appears there is clear evidence in this bill that the Liberal Government has not recovered from its climate denialism. It is being administered by a domination of climate change sceptics. It is pretty clear that every single piece of legislation in the area of future planning, anything to do with any of the core services, resources, management of large-scale infrastructure issues, any of the bills, speeches, anything that comes before this parliament, has ministers speaking to them who refuse to mention or reflect in legislation the reality of climate change. We even had the minister for Emergency Services, Michael Ferguson, a month or so ago, come in here with an emergency management bill that did not have an account of the central relevance of planning for climate change. What a disgrace.

Here we have a bill which manages to skirt around the reality of what is facing us as a future, but coded within it there is a clear recognition from somewhere within the minister's department or Hydro - I do not know where, but there are some good people in the department who, despite the poor leadership and climate denialism of a number of minister, are managing to move us as a state, way too slowly, but nonetheless in the direction of understanding that we have to plan for energy security in the future.

In December 2015, those of us who were members at the time will not forget the announcement that there was a fault with the Basslink cable and it was no longer working. It came at a time when Hydro's dam storages were below the absolute rock-bottom 25 per cent they were allowed to go down to at the time. It was pretty clear that things were in a desperate place because we had been in a state of severe drought in that preceding winter and spring. It was on the record. The Greens had talked about it in parliament.

The Bureau of Meteorology had forecast this massive drought, driven by an El Niño, but before that the Japanese Bureau of Meteorology in May 2014, a full year and half before we had the energy crisis so-called in Tasmania, predicted that there would be an extreme El Niño occurring throughout the winter, spring and summer of 2015. Despite that, Hydro continued to trade away our water for profits to mainland Australia. They were using a mechanism which had been in place for some time and there is nothing wrong with the mechanism, it was simply not being used with due diligence. No-one has a problem selling excess water that can generate electricity, which is then traded through the Basslink cable to mainland Australia. It is a good thing to increase the supply of clean power in Australia. Tasmania is well placed to contribute.

No-one suspected we would have a rogue Liberal Government determined to extract maximum profit from Hydro and either allow them or direct them - we will never know the truth - to max out the dam credit card and run it down so far that when the cable broke we were in a very bad place.

That failure, which previous energy minister Matthew Groom must take some responsibility for, cost Tasmania $126 million at least. It cost an enormous amount in carbon emissions from the diesel generators we were forced to import and run for at least six months. As Mr O'Byrne pointed out, the Liberals were also required to backflip on their intention to sell the Tamar Valley Power Station and bring that back into action.

We had no clean power generation planning for Tasmania. Hydro is a massive organisation that has been around for 100 years. It should have that level of risk management planning. It is not inconceivable that both those things could happen at the same time. It could happen again. We know there is a fault in the cable. We will have an extreme drought in Tasmania again. We do not want those two things to coincide in the future. The decision by Hydro to increase its minimum dam storage levels is part of that risk management planning.

Hydro Tasmania has recognised the reality of climate change in Tasmania. In 2007 Hydro formally wrote down the energy output of its integrated system by 10 per cent. That is a massive reduction. When the minister is able to listen he might be able to answer the question: has Hydro undertaken another assessment of the energy output of the integrated system in the past 11 years? In the past 11 years there has been a reduction in rainfall across south eastern Australia, according to the Bureau of Meteorology and scientists. Has there been a step reduction in rainfall going into the output from Hydro in Tasmania?

This is not the time for thought bubbles, back of the envelope ideas, or policy lacking in evidence. The Greens are concerned at the minister's full-on promotion of pumped hydro. He says the scheme would cost $5 billion with the second interconnector. The minister has never provided the Tasmanian people with any credible accounting of the costs of that exercise, of the benefits and disadvantages of going down that route versus other routes.

The minister is missing some low-cost ways to make us energy self-reliant. Year after year Liberal energy ministers have missed doing the obvious small things that would make a difference to our energy security as a state and make a big difference to people's hip pockets. First, they could electrify the Tasmanian Government car fleet. Second-hand government electric cars would help people who want to buy an electric car who cannot afford a new electric car. It would introduce Tasmanians to the electric car market and help us to move toward electrification of our total car fleet in Tasmania, which needs to happen as soon as possible.

Second, the minister announced earlier this week that he is going to cut the solar feed-in tariff by 30 per cent, from 28 cents down to 8.5 cents with a very small window period of one year, which does not provide a signal to the solar household installation market. What minister, who is committed to introducing renewable energy into Tasmania, would make a move like that? His decision is designed to drive down the small-scale solar installation sector, a sector that would create hundreds of jobs across Tasmania, particularly in regional areas and in small operations. Household solar is sustainable and creates ongoing work, because those systems need maintenance. It is good for individual householders as a way of reducing electricity costs and it is good for the planet.

I have a number of things to talk about in the Committee stage of the bill. We cannot talk about an energy security coordinator without understanding that a core task for that role will be to investigate Tasmanian liquid fuel security. The energy we use in a liquid fuel form is an equally large part of the energy we consume as a state from coal-fired power. From a domestic perspective, the amount of energy Tasmanians use as electricity to power homes and businesses is about 15 per cent of all energy. The amount of energy in the form of diesel or petrol in light vehicles, that is not in freight movements, is about 25 per cent of that total energy.

From an energy security perspective, there is clearly a lot of incentive to make big changes and how we use transport. As I mentioned, electrification of the Tasmanian fleet would make huge inroads towards that target. Unfortunately, at the moment nearly 100 per cent of all the essential transport services from freight and people movement in Tasmania come from liquid fuels and it is not yet electrified. Almost all of that liquid fuel, about 98 per cent, is imported. I do not have the up-to-date figure, but a couple of years ago we spent $1.3 billion a year as a state on liquid fossil fuels for transport. We spend more on energy for motorised transport than we do on electricity.

If we think about energy security and the role of an energy security coordinator, we need to consider the fact that most of that petroleum comes from South-East Asia. We are at the end of the oil supply chain and as a result, we are exposed to unforeseen impacts of global events. Some of those unforeseen impacts will be related to climate change and extreme weather events. Clearly anything coming over the oceans is exposed to extreme winds and that is a concern for the security and safety of those vessels. They are also exposed to the unforeseen possibility of a terrorist attack or another calamity that could happen.

Because we have no ability to make or store that fuel on the island, we have a dependence on the importation of those fuels and very little control over the price. What we hear regularly is the increasingly large component that petrol prices play in the household weekly budget. Everything we can do to push back on that increasing component and make that energy secure and, importantly, renewable in its generation, has to be a core part of the work of the energy security coordinator.

That is all I need to say on this bill at the moment except that clearly anything happening in this space needs to be framed first and foremost within the context of climate change, and I look forward to the minister's comments on how he is going to be instructing those roles to do that.