Scott Hargreaves On IPA Research On Western Australia’s Energy Plan 6PR Perth Live – 22 February 2024

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22 February 2024
Scott Hargreaves On IPA Research On Western Australia’s Energy Plan 6PR Perth Live – 22 February 2024 - Featured image

The Institute of Public Affairs’ Scott Hargreaves joined Oliver Peterson on 6PR to to discuss new research which shows WA’s energy plan is unaffordable at any cost.

All media appearances posted onto the IPA website are directly related to the promotion and dissemination of IPA research.

Below is a transcript of the interview.


Oliver Peterson:

It is nine past four. The WA Government has a policy of trying to reduce emissions by 80% from 2020 levels by 2030. I’ll say that again. The Cook government wants to reduce emissions by 80% from 2020 levels by 2030. We are rapidly running out of time for that to become a reality. And can it be done? Well, some interesting research has just been conducted by the IPA, and I’m pleased to say joining me in the studio today is Scott Hargreaves, the Institute of Public Affairs’ executive director. Good day, Scott.

Scott Hargreaves:

Good day, Ollie. Thanks for having me.

Oliver Peterson:

Can this be achieved?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, we think it’s actually unachievable at any cost. There’s just severe engineering problems with the whole concept of going to that level of renewables, closing down all your baseload, coal-fired energy, and certainly there’s a 52 billion dollar black hole in what it would take to even try and get there.

Oliver Peterson:

52 billion dollar. Where’s that money going to come from, Scott?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, that’s a good question, because they only allowed 3.7 billion when they announced the plan back in June ’22. But my thing is that I’m here, I was in Victoria last week, Ollie, as you can imagine, and we had 500,000 people experiencing a blackout. They were without power. And that, if you like, is the future. WA is just a little way down the road towards closing down its baseload coal-fired generators. Victoria’s a lot further down this road towards renewables nirvana. And I don’t want WA to go down that road. I don’t want businesses and households in WA to experience that. And I think on the eastern states, sensible people like say the New South Wales premier are already starting to reverse course. They’ve got emergency plans trying to work out how to keep their baseload coal-fired generators open much longer than is scheduled.

Oliver Peterson:

So these are unrealistic achievements to make sure that the lights still stay on, and we don’t have half a million people without power because there’s a storm. We had an incident recently obviously, in the hills here in Perth with people without power for four or five days. Out to Kalgoorlie, they were without power for up to a week. Some people even further west… Sorry, east, without power for about two weeks. So we are very reliant on that baseload power. If you get rid of it, what do you do?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, exactly. So Perth’s got the South West Interconnected System, of course, which is isolated. Doesn’t have the benefit of interconnectors with other states, but it’s been managed reasonably well. But it works well when you put energy security first. When you put consumers first, put keeping the lights on first. If your number one objective is simply to tick a box on the emissions profile 10 years out in 2030, you’re going to put energy security second, and that’s when the lights start to go out.

Oliver Peterson:

That is a really worrying trend or concern. You say there’s a 52 billion dollar black hole and the government put 3.7 billion dollars towards it. How do you get to that 52 billion dollar figure?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, it’s really when you just assume that you can close the coal-fired power stations, Collie and Muja in particular. And we’ll have batteries and we’ll have more wind farms and we’ll have even bigger solar factories. And certainly we’re talking potentially more than 7 billion dollars worth of batteries. Which only work for a short period of time. 8 billion dollars worth of solar farms in the scenarios we’ve modelled. And there’s no accounting for transmission lines in all of this. Once you start, as we’ve seen again in the eastern states, everyone says, “Oh, well, we’ll build a wind farm over here or a solar farm over there.” But then suddenly the taxpayer is on the hook to build these great transmission lines. And that could be over 13.5 billion dollars. That’s our modelling.

Oliver Peterson:

We’ve also got an abundance of gas, obviously, and access to gas [inaudible 00:03:55] this side of the country. A lot of that goes offshore. Gas is all of a sudden something that is also in the gun, Scott. Should it be?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, no, it shouldn’t be. And goodness knows again, WA has had very sensible policies ensuring that businesses and households have got access to gas. But suppliers are at risk from all the measures we’ve seen to stop the state’s gas industry developing. But you also have a real problem with Dampier to Bunbury gas pipeline. It’s only got a certain capacity, and if you close down coal, and at the times when solar and wind isn’t running, they’ll be saying, “Oh, we need more gas for the gas-fired generators.” But there’s only so much gas you can put through that pipeline. And so gas could ride to the rescue, but perhaps the only way it could ever be done is if you took it off business, if you took it off households. Because when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, gas is the only backup you’ve got.

Oliver Peterson:

Well, Steve says the federal Liberals and Nationals have now said, “A solution that does not require any power line transmission infrastructure is build nuclear power stations at the site of current coal power plants.” So in WA it would mean building one in Muja or Collie. That would be the replacement baseload power supply. The Federal Government though, does not, does it Scott, really want to entertain the idea of nuclear power?

Scott Hargreaves:

No, that’s right. And this really should be up to the people of WA. We are agnostic. You just need reliable baseload energy that operates 24/7. And at the moment, the only two real candidates for that are coal or nuclear. If you want that emissions-free future, nuclear can deliver that. But then the Federal Government would need to repeal the prohibition. So that’s up to the people of WA to say, “Is nuclear something we’re interested in?” If that delivers emissions reductions and actually delivers base load energy, then sure you might do it. But at the moment the feds won’t let you do it.

Oliver Peterson:

And this obsession of renewables by removing this baseload power, if you look through the window of what you’ve just seen in Victoria again over the last week, this is what the whole nation might be facing over the next decade.

Scott Hargreaves:

Yeah. And the story is already starting to fall apart. So for instance, in Victoria and New South Wales, there’s much talk of offshore wind, but I don’t know whether you’ve heard, but ironically, the federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, who’s been blocking so many resource projects around Australia, actually blocked an offshore wind project in Victoria. So when Chris Bowen comes to Perth and says, “You should look at offshore wind in WA.” I mean, it’s almost laughable. Because on the East Coast these projects are actually being rejected on environmental grounds and by the communities who have to put up with them.

Oliver Peterson:

So what’s the solution here, Scott?

Scott Hargreaves:

Well, the first thing is don’t do anything rash. I would say to the new premier, because he’s inherited this plan, pause, take a very good look. Get the zealots out of the road. This is not about ideology, this is about engineering. There’s room for renewables. In fact, there’s a good spread of energy sources around the South West Interconnected System as it is. But let’s get away from this mad rush. So stop blowing up your coal-fired power stations. Never blow anything up until you’ve got the replacement locked in. So that’s in the short-term. Don’t do anything mad.

Oliver Peterson:

Scott, thanks for coming in today. It’s been good to meet you.

Scott Hargreaves:

Thanks for your time.

Oliver Peterson:

That is Scott Hargreaves from the Institute of Public Affairs, executive director. It’s over to you. 133 882, their new report, their research that WA’s energy plan is unachievable at any cost. It’ll create a 52 billion dollar black hole. Back with your calls next at 17 past four.

This transcript with Scott Hargreaves talking on 6PR from 22 February 2024 has been edited for clarity.

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