Doorstop at CEDA 'Future Direction in Energy Technologies' event, Sydney

Emissions reduction, targets

ANGUS TAYLOR: I was delighted this morning to have the opportunity to lay out key elements of our long-term strategy for emissions reduction and in particular the pathway to Glasgow later this year. And of course central to that is technology, not taxes. We know that humans have an extraordinary ability to innovate. We don't need taxes to do it. What we need is the right framework, the right support from government in order to develop technologies that we know can reduce emissions without destroying jobs, without destroying the economy, without destroying regions. And that was the focus of today - technology, not taxes.

Now, crucial to that we'll be making sure that we invest in research and development in the right technologies - hydrogen is one and we've already launched our National Hydrogen Strategy and we have set a goal today of “H2 under 2”, getting the cost of producing hydrogen in Australia down to below $2 a kilo. That's a point at which we can put that technology out to work and, in the process, not destroy jobs, not destroy the economy, and make sure it goes out to work in other countries all around the world to bring down emissions. This is about technology, not taxes to get emissions down to maintain a strong economy.

I was also delighted today to announce that we'll be appointing Alan Finkel to lead our work, our reference group, to support the Government on this technology strategy. Alan has played an enormously important role, or is playing an enormously important role as our Chief Scientist and has also been supporting us with the development of the Hydrogen Strategy.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you signalled in your speech that it's time to move on in terms of government support from solar and wind. What about other emissions-reducing technology like HELE coal-fired power plants? Are you saying that the Government needs to move on from that as well?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, what I'm saying is that we need to invest our R&D dollars - that's what we're talking about, R&D and early deployment - in technologies that have great prospects, that aren't yet commercial and that we think can get commerciality within a reasonable timeframe to bring our emissions down. That's our focus and that's where our investments are going. I mean, we're already seeing the CEFC and ARENA are investing many hundreds of millions of dollars in our hydrogen strategy. We're seeing investment in distributed energy. We've seen enormous investment also in biological and carbon sequestration through biology - that's through trees and soil - and also geological sequestration. So that's carbon capture and storage. I mean, we are making those investments as a government now and will continue to. They are important investments to make. It means that once something gets to commerciality – and we’re seeing that with solar and wind: the economics are working, the subsidies are coming off at a phased and an appropriate pace - we need to make sure our R&D dollars go into other areas where we know we can make cuts.

JOURNALIST: When do you think you could get some hydrogen to $5?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Hydrogen is coming down in cost now and the key thing is we need to see the pilot plants like we're putting in the Latrobe Valley, the supply chain like we're seeing up in the Latrobe Valley. We need to work out how to get it into our pipelines and we're doing that - we announced the National Hydrogen Centre in Adelaide in Tonsley just last week will be feeding hydrogen into the pipeline down there. These are the pilot projects we need to do to work out how to get those costs down to a level where we know we can deploy these technologies without shedding jobs, without destroying regions, without raising the cost of living, the cost of electricity, the cost of energy. That is absolutely crucial. That's our approach. We know that approach will work not just here in Australia, we know that will work all around the world because, let's face it, we're 1.3 per cent of emissions, and we need to do our bit with that 1.3 per cent emissions, bring them down, but we also need to do our bit in making sure these technologies are available for China, for India, for other countries all around the world, and that will reduce their emissions and maintain strong economic growth.

JOURNALIST: But isn't it inevitable that jobs get destroyed when you no longer take power, for example, for coal and you instead take it from hydrogen or another mix?

ANGUS TAYLOR: What I'm saying is that we will maintain a strong economy if we get the costs of those technologies down to the level of their higher emitting alternatives. It's just straight economics and that's what we need to do to maintain a strong economy. Look, the truth is the coal industry is going to be here for a while yet, we need a balance in our system, and it's not going to change overnight. And that's the important thing about this debate, it's got to be balanced, it's got to be sensible, it's got to be sober in its approach. That's what we are doing. We're not setting some kind of target without a plan, that we saw Anthony Albanese launch in the last few days. We're not going down that path. And you know his answer to how he's going to do it is we'll work it out as we go. We'll work it out as we go. Well that's not our approach. We're focused on how do we do this, how do we deliver emissions reductions, whilst maintaining a strong economy, maintaining strong jobs growth. That's been the track record of this Government in the past and it will be the track record in the future.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the Government has said it won't sign up to the zero net emissions by 2050 without knowing what the costs are. Can you outline what you're doing to investigate this?

ANGUS TAYLOR: That was what the speech was about today. So it's about how do we deploy technologies between now and 2050 to reduce emissions without imposing costs on the economy. That's the key. That's what this is all about. Australians want to know that we're not going to raise their electricity bills, that we're going to bring them down. That we're not going to raise the cost of gas. That we're not going to destroy jobs in energy intensive industries that use, like an aluminium smelting and others, agriculture, the heavy energy users, they want to know that we're doing the right thing to make sure that those parts of the economy remain strong. That's our focus and the key here to bring emissions down between now and 2050 is identify those technologies, do the work on them, work - not just in Australia, but with other countries around the world. And we're doing exactly that with the hydrogen supply chain project right now in the Latrobe Valley, work with other countries around the world to get those technologies down to parity, deploy them and strengthen our economy in the process.

JOURNALIST: Minister, in your speech today you said that massive government subsidies aren't the answer to reaching the emissions reductions target, it will be the private sector leading the way. So why is the government considering underwriting coal-fired power stations?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Our Underwriting New Generation Program - I think you're talking a slightly different thing - we're doing a feasibility study on a coal-fired power station right now as part of understanding better how we can meet the energy needs of central and north Queensland, that energy intensive industrial part of Australia - that's a feasibility study. We do have an Underwriting New Generation Investment program. We've announced two gas generators as part of that program. That's minimal government intervention to get dispatchable generation into our system to match the solar and wind that is coming into the system. These are sensible, minimal interventions that we've got to do to make sure we bring our emissions down and make sure our energy supplies are affordable. And that's the approach this government is taking. We don't set some kind of target and then throw a whole lot of money at it hoping some will land in the right place. We take a very sober, disciplined approach to working out how we're going to get our emissions down, to setting a plan and delivering on that plan, and the track record is there. I mean the 2020 targets this year we'll beat by 411 million tonnes, that's 80 per cent of a year's worth of emissions. There are very few countries in the world that can boast that kind of track record.

JOURNALIST: If the interventions are minimal, why won't the private sector provide that funding for a feasibility study?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I mean, you know, we've seen that there is a need for support in certain areas to get technologies up and to make sure we've got the right complementary investments happening. And you know the CEFC has played this role for many years, for many years, and it will continue to play the role. That's why we've set up the $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund. Now this is about kick-starting the investment, getting the private sector investment in and then getting it up. You know, when the private sector steps up, we must step back. And that's exactly what we're doing, that's the approach we've been taking as a government and it means every dollar of taxpayers' money is spent well. It's spent to get an outcome and as fast as we can, we leave it to the private sector. That's the approach. That's the philosophy and that's how we'll continue to approach it in the future.

JOURNALIST: Does this mean you'll be upping your funding for ARENA?

ANGUS TAYLOR: ARENA has funding through to 2022, and they're playing an enormously important role in those early-stage investments. They're investing in dispatchable generation projects. They're investing in hydrogen and pilot projects in hydrogen - some of the ones I mentioned earlier are ARENA projects. So they are playing a very, very, very important role. As is the CEFC, as is the CSIRO, as are the universities, as are the CRCs. I mean there is a really broad collaborative effort here in R&D and the early deployment of these technologies, and the philosophy: get these technologies to a point where they're not going to destroy jobs, they're going to support a strong economy and then step back and let the private sector get on with it.

JOURNALIST: Once you've done the work on knowing what the cost is of meeting say net zero by 2050, are you saying that then you'll be able to determine whether or not you're going to sign up to that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: What we've said all along, we've said all along is we're not going to set a target without a plan without costings. We saw Labor go to the last election with a 45 per cent emission reduction target - uncosted, unfunded, unplanned and we saw how the Australian people reacted to that because the view they took was that that was a bill they couldn't afford. That was where they got to. Now, we're not going down that path. It is as simple as that. We're not going to do what they did and what was extraordinary in the last week is Labor came out and did it all over again and the Leader of the Opposition‘s answer as to how he was going to do this, how he was actually, what his plan was going to be, whether dairy was going to disappear, whether we had to eat less meat - his answer was: we'll work it out as we go. That's just not how this Government approaches things.

JOURNALIST: What's your timeframe for completing your plan and costings?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We'll go to Glasgow this year with a long-term strategy. I mean that's the focus and that long-term strategy will have technology as a centrepiece. Look, we are leading the world in a number of technologies. There's no doubt about this. You know, hydrogen, when I talk to my colleagues from around the world, there's no question that Australia is leading, and is incredibly well positioned on this. We are one of the biggest exporters of energy in the world right now. We're extremely well positioned. We've got good solar resources which are crucial for green hydrogen. We have good gas resources which are crucial in also complementing our hydrogen production. And we have customer countries who want this - Japan, Korea, China - they want this. So we're very, very well positioned to lead the world on this. When we look at sequestration on land, I mean Australians are leading, Australian farmers are leading the world on working out how to get more carbon into their soils. So these are places where we will play a leadership role and that's what we're going to Glasgow with, a leadership role in making sure the world can meet longer-term emissions reductions whilst we ensure that for our 1.3 per cent of emissions we're doing our bit.

JOURNALIST: So by November, you'll be able to say whether or not you can sign up to the 2050 net zero? That's what you're saying isn’t it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm saying we'll have a long-term strategy in place and I'm saying that we're not going to have a target without a costing. I'm not going to announce any other policies here today.

JOURNALIST: Just on the bilateral deals with the states, the Victorian Energy Minister has said that she hasn't been contacted since before Christmas about a potential bilateral deal.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Our officials have been in contact actually. And I have spoken to the Victorian Energy Minister about it. But look, we would like to work with Victoria. We would like to work with Victoria on a state energy deal. We've got a fantastic state energy deal with New South Wales. We're jointly investing in R&D projects like the ones I was talking about today. We're jointly reducing emissions through, on our side: the Climate Solutions Fund. We're getting more gas into the system. We're making sure that our existing generators are going flat out to keep prices down. So all of those things have come from the state energy deal which we've recently agreed with the New South Wales Government. We would like to replicate that in other states and Victoria is one we would like to do it with. I mean we've been very clear about the prerequisites for that but it is a deal we want to do. I've spoken with the Victorian Minister about it. Officials, I know, have been in contact and we'll continue to see if we can work together on it. Victoria needs affordable reliable energy as it brings its emissions down and we want to work with Victoria on that.

JOURNALIST: Does that include lifting the Victorian moratorium on gas exploration?


JOURNALIST: Will that include lifting the moratorium-

ANGUS TAYLOR: There's been no secret that we want to see more gas in the system in Victoria.

JOURNALIST: Minister, that targeted hydrogen cost of two dollars, are you going to index that to the cost of LNG or petrol or some other factor?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, it's essentially about the cost of alternatives and the range of alternatives and it depends on what you're using the hydrogen for obviously. But you know, the point about this is that “H2 under 2” is a focus, a target that's getting the cost of hydrogen down to $2 a kilogram, where we know we can use that technology without subsidies, without imposing costs on taxpayers, on customers, and that means we will deploy it, it makes economic sense for us to do it at that level, on a large-scale across our energy system and it means other countries around the world will do it. And remember the job here, the goal of Paris, the long-term goals in Paris are about bringing down global emissions. This problem is not solved until we bring down global emissions. Australia can play its role through reducing its 1.3 per cent, but can also play a role through deploying new technologies to bring down global emissions.