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Interview with Paul Culliver, ABC Capricornia

21 May 2020

Paul Culliver

Subject: Technology Investment Roadmap, emissions reduction, nuclear energy, gas.


PAUL CULLIVER: Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, good morning to you.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

PAUL CULLIVER: You've released this morning a discussion paper into a Technology Investment Roadmap - so where do you want to see the money spent to reduce emissions in this country?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Technology not taxes - that's the point. We want to see new technologies, emerging technologies which reduce emissions, whether that's using existing fuels like coal and gas or new fuel sources like solar, those technologies can reduce emissions and at the same time, strengthen our economy, create jobs, encourage investment, reduce the cost of living. That's the focus of the technology roadmap. The alternative pathway is to tax energy intensive industry and activities, that's not where we're going and particularly at this time, coming out of this COVID-19 crisis, we need to strengthen the economy, deploy technologies that improve businesses and not weaken them.

PAUL CULLIVER: Alright. Lower emissions obviously, with renewable energy, how do you achieve that in gas and coal?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well gas and coal is seeing increasing efficiencies all the time with new technologies. We're seeing very new technologies, relatively new technologies being deployed in those existing sectors to reduce emissions and improve efficiency which makes them lower cost. And this is not new. It's been happening for many years and it'll continue to happen and we'll continue to encourage it. The key here is balance. You know people want to pick one technology and say that's the answer to all the world's problems. The true answer is balance. We're going to have gas and coal - they're an important part of our systems for many years to come - but solar is an increasingly important part of our system. Many of your listeners will have solar on their roofs and many farmers using solar. I use solar on my farm for pumping water.  So balance is the key. A balance of technologies. And of course, those technologies include, or fuel sources include those critical fuel sources that are produced in abundance in Queensland - gas and coal.

PAUL CULLIVER: Okay. How does this roadmap actually lead to the right kind of investment?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It prioritises. Essentially, what we're doing is saying we need a lot of horses in this race. Any horse that can win in reducing emissions, improving the efficiency of our use of energy, we should back and if we back a lot of horses that have got a chance of winning we're going to create winners, we'll reduce emissions and crucially we'll make sure that technologies are available which businesses and households choose because they are good technologies. And that leaves a very important role for those critical industries, whether it's gas and coal or other industries. We see enormous potential for hydrogen in Queensland and that's another technology which is emerging fast where Australia is playing a leadership role.

PAUL CULLIVER: You've got the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, you've got the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, are there other ways to fund and incentivise investment here? How do you make sure you are backing winners?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well you know, this is all about making sure our investment is aligned with a clear strategy and that does mean investments from agencies like the CEFC and ARENA, but there is others - there's CRCs and of course universities play an important role and the private sector plays an important role. You know, we're seeing projects around the country now where federal government's involved for every dollar we put in, we're seeing 8, 9, 10 dollars coming from the private sector and other organisations. So we've got to lead the way in making sure these investments in technology are sensible ones and the right ones, but to do that we've got to have the right priorities. This is about establishing those priorities not just over the short term but over the medium term and long term.

PAUL CULLIVER: What are the opportunities for central Queensland?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There's enormous opportunity. I mean gas continues to play a very, very important role not just in Australia but globally and the reason for that is simple. It is a fuel which many countries want to make more use of and it fits well with renewables. So when the sun goes down, your solar cells don't work, you need to have backup - gas can play that role because it's very flexible. Coal will continue to play an important role not just in electricity generation but crucially important in the steel industry, the metallurgical coal round Moranbah and so on. It will continue to play an important role but we've got to make sure that we're reducing emissions in Australia, supporting the reduction of emissions around the world at the same time as we do well out of those export industries.

PAUL CULLIVER: Is the prospect of nuclear power in Australia dead?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look, there's emerging technologies in nuclear called small modular reactors. They're smaller, they are [inaudible] safer, very safe. They have the potential to be lower cost. It's early days yet with that technology but it's one we need to keep a very close eye on. It has great potential like a number of these technologies. It is early days but it's one that we've mentioned in the roadmap, talk about in the roadmap as an import technology to watch. We have a moratorium in this country. There's no plan to change it but it's a technology we need to keep a very close eye.

PAUL CULLIVER: Just quickly, we've only got a minute before the news. But there's been a leaked draft report by the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission. It talks about a lot of things to do with the gas market. One of them is floating an idea that, as we've heard, has existed before but a $6 billion Trans Australian pipeline between the east and the west. What do you make of that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well I think gas is an important part of the way our energy system works not just now, but will continue-

PAUL CULLIVER: Do you want to see a pipeline?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I want to see continued investment in pipelines. I'm not going to speculate on which pipelines are the right ones and which ones are the wrong ones. Ultimately, investors will make those calls. Government has a role to play in helping to facilitate that but, you know, pipelines are a really important part of the network that makes gas an effective fuel source, will continue to and the technologies that improve gas and coal, the high efficiency, low emissions coal and gas, will continue to be technologies that are really important, just as investment in gas pipelines is an important part of the mix.

PAUL CULLIVER: Alright. Minister, thanks so much for your time today.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thank you.

PAUL CULLIVER:  The Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor there.