Comment

What's with the attacks on renewables Mr Turnbull?

One of the biggest conundrums in Australian politics at the present time is the Federal Government's entrenched opposition to renewable energy sources.

It is bizarre that when, for the first time ever, technology has made it possible for societies to meet a significant proportion of their power needs without having to burn fossil fuels or other combustibles, those in charge of setting policy in Australia seize every opportunity to cast this as a bad thing.

A clear case in point was when, on Wednesday, the Federal Energy minister made a valiant effort to mint political capital out of South Australia's latest blackout.

"We're not politicising the fact there is an insecure energy system in South Australia and that high renewable energy targets, be it in that state or other states, put in place by Labor Governments is going to bring great instability," he told the national broadcaster.

Mr Turnbull had earlier prophesied, rather inaccurately recent developments with his own party would suggest, that energy security would be the "defining debate" of the parliamentary year.

Wednesday's South Australian power outage was, for the record, the result of the Australian Energy Market Operator's failure to turn on enough generators to meet demand according to treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis.

Advertisement

"We had some people tonight without power because the national market didn't turn on the generation we had in the state," he said.

If there are significant power outages anywhere during the current heatwave conditions Mr Turnbull, Mr Frydenberg, Tony Abbott and the government appear ready to point the finger at dependence on renewables.

What lies behind this aversion to emerging technologies which, if encouraged and supported, could grow an Australian alternative energy generation industry capable of lighting the way for the rest of the world?

While former treasurer, Joe Hockey's, aesthetic objections to wind farms are well documented, such delicate sensibilities are unlikely, in themselves, enough to motivate a whole government to commit the entire nation to 19th century energy generation techniques through its oxymoronic advocacy of "clean coal".

One explanation is that with The Greens, and, to a lesser extent, the ALP having long ago claimed the high ground on renewables and climate change, the conservatives believe there is some value in having a point of difference.

Another is that the economic pragmatists in the engine rooms of the Liberal and National Parties are keenly aware that fossil fuels, especially coal, will be making a major contribution to the fiscal bottom line for years to come and that it is desirable to eke this out for as long as possible.

The latest bout of political gamesmanship on this issue is probably driven by both factors.