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Interview with Leigh Sales, ABC 730

23 September 2020

Leigh Sales

Subject: Technology Investment Roadmap


LEIGH SALES: Minister, thanks for your time.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Leigh.

LEIGH SALES: Have you modelled the impact these policies announced today will have on Australia's emissions by 2050?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, we have, through the work we've done, as part of prioritising these technologies ascertained that by 2040 we could reduce emissions by about 250, the equivalent of about 250 million tonnes. That's close to half of Australia's emissions just from success in reaching the stretch goals on these technologies. And of course-

LEIGH SALES: [Interrupts] Sorry, just to be clear, before you go on. So, are you saying that you would have a reduction of 50 per cent, what, on today's emissions level or what's the baseline?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, that’s correct. That's correct. And that's just on these technologies, of course. I mean, there's other things going on which are driving down emissions. So, they're a very substantial part of our economy that is being affected by the technology-

LEIGH SALES: [Interrupts] But we are a signatory to the Paris Agreement, which means by 2050, we are supposed to be at net zero. So if you are only at a 50 per cent reduction by 2040 that only gives you 10 more years to then get to another 50 per cent.

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I've heard others make this point, Leigh, and let's be very clear about this, the primary nationally determined contribution, as they are called, in the Paris Agreement is to a 2030 target. Now we have a very clear 2030 target: 26 per cent emissions reduction on our 2005 baseline levels, and just as we've met and beaten our 2020 targets, we are on target to meet and beat our 2030 goals. Now there is not, as you say, a commitment from individual countries in Paris to be net zero by 2050. The commitment is a global commitment to get to net zero in the second half of the century, and that's why technology is so critical. We want to bring that forward to as soon as possible, but ultimately this is a global commitment and it's going to require global solutions.

LEIGH SALES: Countries such as the UK and the EU have set a net zero emissions target for themselves. We're talking about the second half of the century. I mean, what are we talking about, 2051 or 2099, because that is a big window?

ANGUS TAYLOR: As soon as possible. I mean, we've been very clear on that. But the pathway to get there, as the Prime Minister said on the ABC on the weekend, is for these technologies to become economic as soon as possible. And that's what this technology investment plan that we've laid out today is all about.

LEIGH SALES: Can I ask about one of the technologies we're going to be relying upon more, which is hydrogen? It has to be produced, and it can be produced by renewable energy, so called green hydrogen, or by gas, blue hydrogen, which creates more pollution. What percentage of each is Australia aiming for in its mix?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we'd expect the mix to move over time. And we're already a major hydrogen producer.

LEIGH SALES: [Interrupts] But have we got targets though on that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well hang on, let me finish. We're already a major hydrogen producer. We use hydrogen to produce fertiliser and plastics and other materials now, but there is potential, over time, to migrate towards green hydrogen and to use carbon capture and storage to decarbonise the process of producing hydrogen, and not just using it as industrial feed stock for products like fertiliser, but to use as a source of energy. And that's what we've laid out-

LEIGH SALES: [Interrupts] And again, I ask, is there a timeframe for where that mix is going to start shifting?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, both blue and green hydrogen can be decarbonised, is my point. Both of them can be.

LEIGH SALES: The Prime Minister has been talking about using gas as a transition technology. Gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal to produce the same amount of power. Why not put all your efforts into fast tracking renewables rather than going to gas first so that you can have only one transition point instead of two?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, they're complementary. This is the point. I mean, the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has said himself that gas is the perfect complement to solar and wind. And the reason is that alongside solar and wind, which is producing energy when the sun shines and the wind blows, you need dispatchable energy sources that can fill the gap. And gas can do that. Pumped hydro can do that, that's why we're investing in Snowy 2.0. Batteries, over time, can do that. They can do that for short duration economically now. Over time, those durations will get longer. And it's a balance of those dispatchable energy sources we're going to need. Now gas is a big opportunity for Australia right now. We've seen the price of gas come down very substantially pre-COVID, and continue down beyond that. The market signals are that the gas price is going to stay much lower than it was and that creates an opportunity to use gas to complement our record level of investment in renewables.

LEIGH SALES: The former-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been highly critical of this announcement today, and Prime Minister's about gas last week. He says in the energy sector: “People are just punch-drunk with these random interventions from Government. It's got to stop. We need a coherent energy and climate policy. We had that with the National Energy Guarantee.”

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, the National Energy Guarantee had two pieces, Leigh. The first is the Retailer Reliability Obligation to encourage dispatchability, which is a very good thing. I've always strongly supported it, and we've done that. That went into place late last year, and it's in place now and we'll continue to fine tune it - very important reform. The second part of the National Energy Guarantee was a target to reduce emissions by 26 per cent in the National Electricity Market. We'll get to that for 2030. We'll get to that target, either this year or next; 9 or 10 year ahead of time, Leigh. So, we've achieved the outcomes there, we've achieved the outcomes there. Now we do need to see a competitive gas market. We do need to see a balance in our grid. We do need to see Liddell replaced. And they are all important initiatives that will ensure that we have- the overall objective we all want here, which is affordable, reliable energy, job-creation in energy intensive sectors, as we bring down emissions. That's achievable, but we need to work and continue to work closely with industry to achieve it.

LEIGH SALES: On another matter, a report by the Auditor-General has found that the Federal Government, when purchasing land in Western Sydney for a second airport, paid the owners 10 times want the land was worth. This comes on top of your own distribution of false information about the Sydney City Council, and the sports rorts affair where taxpayer money was channelled to seats the Coalition was targeting at the last election. There seems to be a pattern here in Government, of at the very least sloppiness or negligence, doesn't there?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I've rejected the allegations you just put in the past. But look, I don't think-

LEIGH SALES: [Interrupts] No, I'm just talking about a broader pattern though of things, where we never seem to get to the bottom of how these things occur?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, Leigh, I've been very clear on your program on a number of occasions on some of the allegations you are making there and I'm not going to go back over that because we've dealt with it in the past. But look, the ANAO put out a report. The Department - there was a number of recommendations in it - the Department has accepted their recommendations and they're getting on with it. And that's the role of the ANAO, that's the role of the Auditor-General. It's an appropriate role. And as I understand it, the Department has responded, agreed to the recommendations, and will address the issues that were raised.

LEIGH SALES: Minister, thank you for your time.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Leigh.

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