Industry isn’t happy about Australia’s lack of an energy policy. NSW is facing gas shortages as early as 2016, and the mining and manufacturing sectors are demanding a clear action plan to keep costs down and reliable supply running.
Rio Tinto energy CEO Harry Kenyon-Slaney warned government of the dangers ahead during a speech at the Australian British Chamber of Commerce today. If the lights go out, so do your re-election chances.
“We demand it – and woe betide the government that fails to guarantee us that 24 hour supply at the lowest possible price. In modern democracies, very few failures can bring political retribution from an angry electorate as swiftly as a failure of the power supply.”
In Australia he said the national energy policy needs to focus on delivering economically viable energy.
“Our economy was built upon having competitively priced energy and it’s become less competitive and the challenge is to bring the competitiveness back,” Kenyon-Slaney said.
“There are lots of fragmented policies in place across state and federal regulations, there’s an energy White Paper that is under consideration, and I think that’s a great opportunity to harmonise those policy frameworks and particularly to align them with an approach on climate change.”
He said a unified policy needs to be consistent to promote investment in Australia.
“If we keep having the chopping and changing of the policy it makes it very difficult for businesses to invest to ensure that they have a long term, secure pathway to being successful,” Kenyon-Slaney said.
He also outlined a three-pronged problem the global energy industry has to contend with, which includes the continued demand for coal, the demand to deal with climate change and CO2 emissions and how both have the ability to impact global political and economic stability.
“Climate change caused largely by CO2 emissions is real, is upon us and must be addressed,” he said, adding it “must be tackled by a concerted campaign of community, science, government and business, acting in unison to ward off a very serious global threat.”
“I want to suggest that the problem of emissions-driven climate change is among the world’s biggest and most pressing,” he said.
But in the face of climate change is the demand for coal fired energy particularly in emerging Asian economies.
“Now and for at least the next several decades, much of the energy that will light up that apartment in Guangzhou will be produced from coal,” Kenyon-Slaney said.
But he warned the debate over climate change and coal’s impact “ignores a vital third element – global political and economic stability.”
“Energy security is not an optional luxury in the modern world,” he said.
“This will be as big a driver in coming decades as climate change and the cost of energy sources.”
His answer to reconciling these three issues is investing in commercialising carbon capture and storage technology as a strategy which he said will deliver cheap, reliable power.
“There is no solution for climate change which does not include a solution for coal,” he said.