For all the uncertainty cast by unprecedented global pandemics and unpredictable election results, some things never change.
You can rely, for example, on the National Party of Australia to remain stubbornly and inexplicably opposed to renewable energy (give or take a few enlightened young MPs). And you can set your watch by National Party elder Barnaby Joyce’s inflammatory and unsubstantiated claims that renewable energy is behind every glitch in the national electricity market.
Cue a Facebook post from Joyce on Tuesday asking renewable energy advocate Zali Steggall – who is also the independent member for Warringah, having ousted the climate-denying former Prime Minister Tony Abbott from the Sydney seat on a campaign for strong climate action – to please explain why there were power outages in the northern beaches region.
'All this heat, all this sun. Zali, what happened to renewable power in Manly today? Why did the power go out?'
He then noted that he’s not especially bothered by the answer:
'I don’t have to win this argument the facts are doing it for me ... The chickens come home to roost.'
But in true Barnaby style, actual “facts” in his outbursts about renewables are few and far between. If he had asked poles and wires company Ausgrid about the outages, rather than Steggall, he might have learned – as RenewEconomy did – that the outages mentioned in his Facebook post were all classed as 'unforeseen cable faults', which were corrected relatively quickly.
Cable faults mean that no matter the supply source, the power can’t get to its destination until the fault is fixed and power restored. It has nothing to do with the power generation source, be it solar, wind or Hunter Valley black coal.
On the contrary, an Ausgrid spokesperson told RenewEconomy that there was 'no pressure on the grid' despite all that heat and all that sun.
The spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday:
'There were no significant demand issues yesterday ... The total demand on the Ausgrid network peaked at 3600MW. For context, a very high demand day is over 5,500MW. We last saw that level in February 2011.'
For her part, Steggall was too busy arguing the case of her proposed Climate Change Bill to respond directly to Joyce’s latest anti-renewables grenade.
But in a media release on Thursday morning, Steggal noted that the Federal Coalition was:
'... once again hampered by internal party politics and its climate-denying members.
The world is heading to net zero by 2050 led by U.S. President Joe Biden. It’s time Prime Minister Scott Morrison sets Australia on the right path.'
But that probably won’t happen, thanks to Joyce and all the National Party MPs still pushing for new coal-fired power stations, and getting plenty of space to amplify those claims in Murdoch media.
It’s why Morrison declares in one breath that the political debate over climate is over and then declares in another breath that Australia will continue to ignore the silence and won’t ramp up its emissions reduction targets.
That’s because, within Australia’s Federal Government, the political debate is a long way from over.
Sophie Vorrath is editor of One Step Off The Grid and deputy editor of its sister site, Renew Economy. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.
This article was originally published by Renew Economy under the title 'Barnaby Joyce shows why a Coalition government may never embrace climate action'. It is republished with permission.
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