Hunt's new brown coal adviser

Climate Spectator understands that a new adviser, Patrick Gibbons, has been appointed to Environment Minister’s Hunt’s office. Gibbons has a long history with efforts to discourage and dismantle policies supportive of renewable energy, energy-efficiency and carbon pollution reduction more generally.

Gibbons had been the Victorian premier’s energy adviser over a period in which the Victorian government undertook a range of counterproductive measures for emissions reductions. Top of mind for the renewables sector will be the imposition of onerous 2km setback conditions on wind farms. But he was also involved in a concerted campaign of misinformation surrounding the pricing of carbon pollution to scare the electorate – a campaign that reached ridiculous proportions.

Still, what is likely to cause more concern among the environmental movement and those involved in clean energy is his time spent as a government lobbyist at International Power-GDF Suez (owners of brown coal generators Hazelwood and Loy Yang B) over 2007-2011 and Alcoa, for a year previously. Both companies have had a leading role in criticising and undermining policy measures to support renewable energy and place legal constraints on carbon emissions, although this long preceded Gibbons' time at these companies. 

During his time at International Power the company repeatedly tried to scare politicians and the general public that the carbon pricing scheme was likely to lead to electricity blackouts, unless owners were fully compensated. In a submission to the federal government where Gibbons is listed as the contact it claimed:

...if the CPRS causes – as has been argued by the sector – the premature closure of plant before replacement plant is available, the demand/supply situation will be acute. This is especially the case in Victoria and South Australia. Alternately this situation could lead to a cascading set of interventions under the reserve trader arrangements and result in a complete failure of the NEM.

Several years ago, while I was a researcher at the Grattan Institute, Patrick Gibbons sought a meeting with myself and the chief executive John Daley. During this meeting he almost insisted we should have a staff member from International Power on our energy research program reference group.

I found it to be an extraordinary and incredibly brazen intervention from a determined lobbyist. He knew little about our research and nothing about who was already on our reference group. We had not advertised for reference group participants. Instead, we had invited a select number of people that had excellent reputations for knowledge and insight surrounding energy and climate policy, technology and markets that would give us honest and thoughtful feedback. Reference group members were expected to participate not as representatives of their companies but as individuals with expertise. We already had Paul Simshauser from AGL and Andrew Stock (formerly of Origin Energy) on the reference group, both of whom had extensive experience in large scale power and the Australian energy sector – from a finance and engineering perspective.

Also during the meeting, Gibbons forcefully argued that the emissions trading scheme would lead to blackouts because it would leave owners with insufficient cash to pay their bankers. This didn’t carry much weight with either myself or Daley. Daley’s prior job was with ANZ and I’d worked with insolvency businesses at Ernst & Young and Ferrier Hodgson. We knew that banks don’t shut down assets which are still earning more cash than they cost to operate. Banks are driven by money, not spite.  

Given all this I had great difficulty in seeing how our research would benefit from International Power involvement driven by an aggressive lobbyist.  

Still, a senior and highly respected member of the wind industry, who worked with Gibbons when he was an adviser to Victorian Labor’s Theo Theophanous, told Climate Spectator that he was just the kind of person that the renewables sector needed in Hunt’s office:

“He will be driven by what serves his minister’s interests, not some ideological agenda. He has a very good understanding of the electricity market. He knows very well that the extra power supply from the renewable energy target will drive down wholesale electricity prices. That’s exactly the message we need the Coalition to appreciate.”

He has a point. In a 2008 International Power submission highly critical of the expansion of the RET it states:

... It imposes highly subsidised energy into the generation mix, the result of which will be a reduction in the wholesale energy price…..Customers certainly potentially face lower wholesale energy costs as a result, at the expense of existing investors.

Meanwhile, though, another of Hunt’s advisers has crossed over from Energy Australia. During his time there Energy Australia was spruiking modelling that suggested the RET would substantially increase consumer electricity prices. This was based on a rather dubious assumption about how the wholesale electricity market operated which suggested extra supply in an oversupplied market wouldn’t reduce prices.

This will all put the clean energy sector incredibly on edge, if they wasn’t already.  

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Why not give 'reason' and 'truth' a chance

Tristan this sounds like great news!!!

Finally it sounds like minister Hunt is surrounding himself with someone of sense who may actually have tax payers interests at heart, absent the green god ideological agenda you would burden us with!

Tally ho and Hurrah!

Electricity consumers are getting net lower prices because of Solar Photovoltaics. That's becuase the Merit Order Effect pass through is greater than the cost of funding the Feed-in-Tariff schemes.

THere are multiple wealth transfers at play but on a NET basis we're better off (Taxpayers) and the old world generators are worse off.

So greed at any cost Andrew, so long as the fossil fuel industry can keep on polluting and poisoning the environment? Apart from adding CO2 to the atmosphere, it seems that fossil fuels also induce denial and wilful ignorance.

Andrew: It has been apparent for some time that you are a spokesperson for the coal and oi industries. This so called independent comment needs to be seen in the light in which it is made. You should not be permitted to comment in this forum as you are a cash for comment plant.

haha i love that, Standard tactic of stifling debate by insisting that I must receive “cash for comment”, hilarious, and even if it were true, why would that invalidate anything I say?!.....additionaly, I suppose the fact that 80% of the people that comment on the climate spectator are infigen employees is not a concern.

Another dinosaur trying to drag us back to the good old polluting days. Enjoy it while you can conservatives, you will be swept away in the future by Governments that respect the science and do what people want - renewable clean energy

Yeah great Andrew, money and growth is the only thing that matters isn't it?

A brown eye advisor more likely!!

Seriously depressing news at a time when many of our Asian neighbours are moving towards emissions trading schemes we are going back down the coal mines to exacerbate AGW.

The RET target + Direct Action is the only real strategy left for Australian emission reductions in the period up to 2020. Despite Tristan's tenative optimism, it is not clear that this appointment will help keep the RET target. Yet it would be a pity if the Coalition gave up on this, since they were responsible for its introduction under John Howard, and it will work.

It is interesting to that note that Labor capitulated in the "carbon wars" by aligning their scheme with the EU ETS. The result of this decision, if put into operation, would be that any purchased so-called "carbon abatement" would fall within the EU cap, and therefore would achieve ZERO reductions in global emissions. This was tokenism on steroids!

Since there is no hope from Labor, and the Coalition are hell-bent of "scrapping the tax" perhaps the Australian Greens could have a look at carbon pricing scheme that looks very much like their favoured carbon tax, but actually doesn't put up the price of electricity in the short term. I call it a rebatable carbon levy, and explain it here: http://australiancarbonprice.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/rebatable-carbon-le...

A rebatable carbon levy would work quite well in conjunction with the RET target.

Introducing such a scheme would also effectively achieve the Coalition's objective of scrapping the tax (or at least the effect of the tax on electricity bills), but it would mean that we could move to a viable scheme for national carbon pricing that didn't depend upon getting a global agreement (an impossible task).

That way we would get the best of all worlds - a progressive reduction in carbon emissions, no meaningful loss of competitiveness as a result of pricing carbon, and the meaningful reductions that are likely to be achieved through the Coalition's Direct Action policy.

Who could complain?

Very interesting appointment, sort of reminds me of a Direct Action movie called Jumanji and in some parts the Gibbons really caused monumental problems to the townsfolk and surrounds, hmmm just sitting back waiting for the Hunt-er to start shooting up the place. Yes very action packed and full of destruction only problem is we are the supporting cast members in this game that is being played out.

If one was to be cynical then you might suspect that this is an appointment foisted on the Minister by the PM's adviser selection committee to ensure that the Minister doesn't go 'native'.

Readers need to be aware that the Abbott government is trying to repeal every bit of legislation which the previous 2 governments enacted. There is a bill currently before the parliament to repeal legislation introduced to protect gambling addicts from themselves. It is mild legislation but apparently the pubs and clubs have decided that it is to go so that they can go back to the past and rape addicts for every dollar they own.

So lets not be too surprised that the brown coal industry which received a massive payout from the previous government is now wanting business as usual. So will the industry hand back the half a billion dollars with interest?

It is approaching the time where we need another Bill Kerr to dismiss this government. There was NEVER a "mandate" to undo everything which the previous government brought in. This sort of behaviour is symptomatic of Abbott's wrecking ball tag and it is paramount to misconduct at the highest level.

IT IS ABOUT TIME THE MEDIA HARDENED IN ITS RESOLVE TO STOP THIS GOVERNMENT BEFORE THERE IS A CIVIL UPRISING as no government has any right to behave in such a manner.

"....has a long history with efforts..." with? what happened to 'of'???
"Top of mind with the renewables sector...." Top of mind - a new expression for 2013 ???
"....he almost insisted...."??? How to you almost insist - you either insist or you don't - anything else is say encouragement etc.
"if they wasn't already wasn't??? Wasn't??? Whatever happened to good old weren't???

Don't you just love Gen X? Not content with ramming their post-modernist data-fiddling ideology down our throats theyalso like to mutilate the language on the side. Those dodgy 80s and 90s uni degrees sure leave a lot to be desired!!!!

Come to Australia and meet the Flinstones.

80% of commenters work for Infigen ?
Care to 'out' all those commenters ?

We definitely don't want consumers to benefit from lower wholesale power prices do we? THe sums I have done suggest that the effect reductions in wholesale power price is much greater than the effect of higher prices paid for renewable power.

And dirty old dinosaur Hazelwood is the best performing asset on the planet for IPR-Suez, cost $2.5B and net profit returned to France $400M/year(2009). In local paper a while ago, Greg Hunt was claiming tidal power is reliable 24 hours per day. Did he really write such a crock as Direct Action Plan Policy? Which was it, either or neither? Will be interesting to watch and impossible to predict.