Interview with Stephen Cenatiempo, 2CC Canberra

Stephen Cenatiempo
The Government's funding for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage projects

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: The Federal Government is today announcing a $540 million investment in hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage as part of the Technology Investment Roadmap. To talk to us about it we're joined by the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor. Yesterday, Kristy McBain had him kidnapped, but he's back with us now. Angus, you escaped? [Laughter]

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, I did, Stephen. And apologies for that, but it's great to be with you this morning. 

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Tell us - for those that don't understand how this works, there's going to be five hydrogen hubs set up across the country. Hydrogen is, I guess, new in the sense that we've been talking more about solar and wind power in the last few years, as opposed to traditional forms of energy. How does hydrogen energy actually work?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We've had hydrogen as an important part of our industrial supply chains and energy systems for a long, long time, Stephen. It's not new. So, everyone who's eaten their breakfast this morning, or eating their breakfast right now, much of that food is produced from ammonia based fertiliser which is produced from hydrogen. And so this is not new. Traditionally, we've made hydrogen almost exclusively from gas, from methane, but the technology is changing and we can make it now from water through electrolysis using electricity. So that change in technology allows us to bring down the emissions from production of hydrogen. But crucially, it is an enormously important input to manufacturing and industry in this country, and agriculture in this country and around the world, and it's why we're seeing big changes, because the technology is evolving. The real promise here is that we can bring down the cost of energy, hold costs down to where we want them to be for manufacturing and for households, and at the same time bring down emissions. The key is to create these hubs, and the $540 million that we announced today is all about starting to build those industries out in crucial areas - whether it's in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, or the Hunter Valley in Newcastle, or Gladstone in Queensland. These are great opportunities for Australia, not just to be a user of hydrogen, but to export it to the world as well.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: When are we going to see the energy prices start to come down? Because proponents of renewable energy always tell us how it's cheaper than coal, it's cheaper than traditional forms of energy, which doesn't seem to be borne out in the numbers. I mean, here in the ACT power bills are likely to rise substantially from July onwards under a proposal by Evoenergy because we have too much renewable energy in our mix.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Stephen, the good news is that electricity prices are coming down and have come down across most of Australia. Indeed, CPI for the last 12 months on electricity has fallen by 9 per cent, which is unprecedented, extraordinary reductions. There is one very clear exception, and that is the ACT where the ACT Government entered into very expensive renewable energy contracts a number of years ago. They promised at the time that this would reduce the cost of energy. Indeed, you are now seeing the price for those badly entered into contracts - $5 a week or a little more, $250 a year for a typical household. That is the price of governments making interventions into the energy system without fully understanding what they were doing, making serious mistakes that everyone has to pay for. And this is why our focus as a government is on technology, not taxation. What you've got there is you've got an energy tax in place in the ACT now because of mistakes made by the ACT Government. At the Federal level we will not make those mistakes, but we do know technology can bring down our emissions and deliver affordable energy at the same time. That's what we're focussed on.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: So let's focus on that. The Prime Minister's said we need to change our energy mix over the next 30 years, and I dont think anybody with any common sense would disagree with that. But we keep talking about these net zero emissions targets by 2050. What's the point of setting targets when what your Government has proved is that industry will move towards this new technology when and if it's viable? Shouldn't we just leave it up to the market? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Our focus is primarily on how to do this. So, we could talk a lot all day, and in fact the PM made the point that, you know, inner city dinner parties, you can talk all you like about targets, but the real challenge is how to do it in a way which ensures that manufacturing, tradies, small businesses and households have the affordable energy they need, and at the same time we bring down our emissions. And the how is the real issue, you know, not just in Australia, but all around the world. I mean, if you're in India, you want to have a reliable, affordable source of energy because you don't have a lot of income to pay for it. And so the technologies that are emerging now are the key to delivering this in a way which is consistent with job creation, with strong growth, with economic opportunity - not just for Australia, but for the world. And that's why our focus is on technology - our Technology Investment Roadmap, our investments in these technologies like carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen that we're announcing today. This is how we're going to do it, and do it in a way which is consistent with the job creation and opportunity for all Australians that we want to see.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Angus Taylor, thanks for your time this morning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good on you, Stephen.