Yesterday Prime Minister Turnball and Energy Minister Frydenburg held a press conference that was primarily focused on the future of the Australian energy market.
The Prime Minister however also touched on his conversation with President Trump in relation to the threat and actions of North Korea in a series of questions that were directed towards him by the media.
On face value, it appears the LNP has softened their stance on both key policies.
When asked questions in regards to the construction of new Coal fired plants, Prime Minister Turnball was forced to concede that despite wanting nothing more than to build a new modern coal fired plant, the challenges we face are a much nearer term.
Any new plant would take too long to build and would have to wear all the capital costs of its construction, indicating that it was not a cost effective nor a realistic solution for the medium term security of our energy market.
This also would not fit in with the recommendations the government has received from The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)
He did, however, express that in accordance with AEMO recommendations, his party does support the life extension of a number of older coal fired plant, in particular, the Liddel Coal power plant operated by AGL.
He quoted this would be the “cheapest” solution for the short term.
This, of course, is harder said than done, as plant operators are not willing to keep operating the Liddel power plant past its 2022 scheduled closing date, due to the increasing costs of maintaining the aging infrastructure.
This puts pressure on the government to find a solution over the next 5 years which will see 1000MW of “dispatchable” capacity taken out of the grid.
Both the Prime minister and Energy Minister did concede that battery storage attached to existing renewable power stations are a reliable way of delivering dispatchable energy to the grid.
Minister Frydenburg also added that the coalition is pursuing the recommendations of the Finkel review, that from now on, Wind and Solar farms will be required to have battery storage attached to them.
With the pursuit of Coal as viable options diminishing in realizing a more secure energy future, it appears that the coalition has no choice but to positioning itself in a more pro renewable stance to meet the demands of the future market.
On the issue of North Korea, in light of the recent phone call with President Trump, Turnball did agree with Trump in condemning the recent nuclear tests by North Korea.
However, both leaders also agreed that China was not responsible for the conduct of North Korea.
Turnball further elaborated on the issue stating that “North Korea is not to China what East Germany was to the Soviet Union, none the less, China does have the largest leverage by far” stating that both leaders should encourage China to do more to help reign in the Kim Jong-un government.
The Prime Minister’s most significant remarks on the issue, however, were that after speaking with the US president as well as the leaders of Japan and Indonesia, that the clear focus of all leaders was to work towards a resolution without conflict.
He further added that “a conflict would be catastrophic, everyone understands that”.