Just after the NSW election, Jihad Dib was expected to take the energy portfolio in Labor Premier Chris Minns’ new government.
He was quick to declare that “keeping the lights on” would be his highest priority if he got the job for which he was frontrunner.
Who would have thought simply maintaining a basic service upon which we all rely would ever be top priority of any government in 2023?
Such are the times.
The Liberals under Matt Kean’s reckless stewardship of the energy portfolio created a situation where many market analysts could not say if the NSW electricity system would go dark at evening peak times when the giant Liddell coal-fired power station is turned off this week.
As former Howard government treasurer Peter Costello told John Anderson’s podcast last week:
“I was in that school that always used to say, let's figure out how we can do something before we announce we're going do it. These days you just announce you're going do it and you got no idea.”
That of course is not rocket science, or at least wasn’t for politicians a generation ago.
None of this work has been done by our modern “green energy” enthusiasts and the only certainty about Australia’s transition to renewables is that power prices will continue to go up, probably for the next 10 years.
All the while, no one can say for sure if the lights will stay on when demand peaks on hot days or windless evenings when the sun has gone down.
Why is Family First concerned about this?
Because a major contributor to family breakdown and the harm this causes children is financial pressure.
Governments who make family basics like electricity unaffordable and unreliable are not just hobbling the economy’s ability to produce manufacturing jobs, they are tearing at our social fabric.
High electricity prices coupled with out-of-control state and federal government spending is petrol on the dumpster fire of inflation which in turn is cannibalising family wealth.
Meanwhile it is families who cop a double whammy as the Reserve Bank punishes them with interest rate hikes on their mortgages.
Another politician-induced problem putting unbearable pressure on young families is the ridiculously high price of housing caused by lack of supply.
Politicians spend with impunity, vandalise the electricity supply and fail to release enough land. All the while working families bear all the economic pain.
It is unjust.
Jihad Dib did not get the energy portfolio when Minns announced his cabinet two weeks ago.
The person who did, upper house member Penny Sharpe, was quick to walk back the “keep the lights on” mantra Dib floated.
In “no cause for alarm” comments to the media last week she was at pains to point out that everything is fine.
There would be no “immediate impact” on supply because of Liddell’s closure. New generating capacity would take care of that, she said.
Who is right, Dib or Sharpe?
There’s a clue in today’s Australian Financial Review from University of New South Wales senior energy research associate Dr Dylan McConnell.
The AFR reports “he and others underscore that the bulk of the new capacity is wind and solar generation, which cannot be depended on to cover peak evening demand for electricity.”
That’s code for NSW might experience blackouts.
“Green energy” proponents always point to battery storage as the solution to the lack of 24-7 generating capacity of windmills and solar panels.
But the AFR also reports: “Storage has also been added faster than anticipated as costs dropped, but only provides a fraction of the power needed to supply on-demand”.
It’s a shame Dib missed out on the energy portfolio. At least he would have made keeping the lights on his top priority.
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