Senate debates

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Matters of Public Importance

Renewable Energy

4:27 pm

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I do not intend to be ridiculed in this place by this gentleman, Senator McKim. When the science suits him, he is all over it like a dirty shirt. But, when it does not suit him, he seeks to ridicule. When it suits him to be talking about Australia only, he has one attitude. When you take the worldwide circumstance—and, of course, the climate does affect the entire world—he refuses to accept the facts of the science. So I will put a few of them on the record for him.

I have figures from the Grantham Institute and the International Energy Agency on annual comparative emission savings in carbon dioxide equivalents. By China upgrading the standard of its power stations and moving to high-energy low-emission coal it is saving some 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. All of the actions combined of the EU and their supposed emissions trading scheme have been able to achieve 25 million tonnes per annum—one-sixteenth of 400 million tonnes. Who has the greatest quantity of high-energy low-emission coal? It is Australia. If Australia did nothing else but ensure the sale of our high-energy low-emission coal to China to replace their low-energy high-emitting coal, we would be doing the world the greatest service. We only produce 1.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases ourselves.

Let me just contrast, for those who might be listening, the difference between those which are modern, highly efficient coal-producing power stations and those which are not. I take a new power station in Shanghai and the Yallourn power station in Victoria: the capacity of the Shanghai station is 2000 megawatts, that of Yallourn, 1450. The efficiency of production, as measured by the percentage of coal becoming electricity, in that Shanghai power station is 46.5 per cent, or just under 50; that of Yallourn, 28 or just over a quarter. The amount of carbon dioxide produced per annum by the Shanghai plant is just under 2 million tonnes; that of Yallourn 15 million tonnes. The workforce required to operate the plant in Shanghai is 265 people, as opposed to 500 at Yallourn. Face it: these are the figures. We have now in China alone 580 coal-powered stations producing electricity and their under-construction plan is for another 575.

I am a supporter of renewables: I am a supporter of wave power; I am a supporter of a re-examination of tidal power; I have always been a supporter of solar energy. I do not know the cost of storage yet, because nobody has done the figures and that is despite my pleas for our government to engage the Productivity Commission to look at this. I do not know yet about the safety of mass storage. I, for one, am very confident of the future of solar-powered energy. Everybody in this place knows what a rort industrial wind turbines are—$900,000 of taxpayer subsidy per turbine per year before it generates one unit of electricity. Don't talk to me about rorts and subsidies, Senator McKim. How long will that take? Probably 15 years of operation before an industrial wind turbine produces a positive result in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. Yes, it is a vexed question and, yes, it is the responsibility of governments to ensure reliable, affordable power. Yes, the South Australian government has failed; yes, the Victorian government will fail; yes, the Queensland government is on a trajectory to fail; and yes, Mr Shorten is on a trajectory to fail. Our responsibility is to ensure energy security.


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