“Scoal-Mo” as PM. What does that mean for climate and energy policy?

Scott Morrison has wasted no time in signalling what direction his “new generation” Coalition government will be taking on renewable energy and climate change. And other political parties and observers have reacted with anger and dismay.

As Giles Parkinson writes here, the new prime minister has not only ended the experiment of combining the energy and environment portfolios, but has appointed one of the country’s most prominent anti-wind campaigners as energy minister, and a former mining industry lawyer as environment minister.

Morrison’s past attitude to renewables has included bringing a lump of coal into Parliament and likening South Australia’s Big Battery to tourist attractions like Coffs Harbour’s famous Big Banana.

CCCAG member Marnie Cotton said Morrison’s comments “clearly place him with the dinosaurs”. She added he has shown little understanding about modern energy systems and regional economies.

“We expect more from our PM,” she said.

Morrison’s mocks renewable energy in Parliament

Last year, when Treasurer, Morrison made waves when he brought a lump of coal into parliament. He presented it as a symbol of the Coalition’s plan on energy policy. Morrison passed the lump around the chamber, telling members not to be afraid of it.

This act was labelled a stunt in the media because it contributed nothing towards the serious question of energy policy.

Morrison also took aim last year at Elon Musk’s battery installation in South Australia, saying it lacked capacity to solve any energy problems. That was before comparing it to the Big Banana and the Big Prawn, two tourist attractions on the NSW coast.

At the time he described the big battery as a “bright shiny thing” and a distraction for the SA Premier.

What does that mean for climate and energy policy?

 As Turnbull observed in his farewell speech:

“I think the truth is that the coalition finds it very hard to get agreement on anything to do with emissions.

“Emissions policy and climate policy issues have same problem within coaltion of bitterly entrenched views, that are actually more idelogical views than based on engineering and economics.”

He compared it to the former differences over marriage equality. “As to what future holds with energy policy, you will have to talk to Scott,” he said.

What does Morrison say about high shares of renewables? He had this to say about Queensland’s 50 per cent renewable energy target for 2030:

“It’s nuts … because it means people under this system will have to pay more and it would probably mean they would be subsidising emissions reduction in NSW… I think it’s a muppet of a proposal.”

Right now, there is no policy in place. Australia’s emissions are rising, predicted to miss the weak 2030 target by a wide margin, and there is complete uncertainty about the National Energy Guarantee that Frydenberg has been spending a year putting together with the Energy Security Board and the big business lobbies.

Frydenberg has had to run the line between good energy policy and the madness of the right wing, and ended up with a policy proposal that sought no emissions reductions from the sector that can deliver the cheapest.

That modelling beggared belief. Just how free he or whoever succeeds him as energy minister might feel to push towards good sense, good economics and good engineering in climate and energy policy, remains to be seen.

Frydenberg – the author of the policy that became the trigger-point for Turnbull’s departure – gets to be deputy prime minister and Treasurer. Hopefully, he will insist on better modelling in his new role.

Which means Australia gets to have as many environment and energy ministers as PMs – Martin Ferguson, Gary Gray, Greg Combet, Ian Macfarlane, Greg Hunt, Josh Frydenberg. Half of those now work or worked for the fossil fuel lobby.

Only time will tell where renewables will go under Morrison’s lead. Until then, be in charge of your own energy, go green with

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