Gas a losing bet for Australia's future

Nicky Ison is a founding director of the Community Power Agency

Nicky Ison is a founding director of the Community Power Agency

The politics of energy is best described as a four-horse race.

Coal has been out in front for more than 150 years, although over the past three decades Gas has been gaining ground. In 2001, energetic newcomer Renewables entered the race and with the introduction of a renewable energy target, began threatening the front-runners.

Now a filly known as Storage has appeared out of nowhere, forcing a major punter rethink.

Coal used to be a safe bet, but in the face of ageing infrastructure and global action on climate change, it's knackered - no matter how much the industry protests. The Turnbull government has talked so long about an energy crisis it has no choice but to declare an immediate solution. The only problem is, he has backed the wrong horse.

Gas is alluring. It's familiar. But there are two problems: gas is highly polluting, and the industry has priced itself out of the race thanks to the international deals it signed.

Yet, we have a prime minister and treasurer doing everything they can to keep gas in the race. When it comes to energy, the biggest ticket items in last Tuesday's budget were still about providing advantage and assistance to fossil fuel companies.

Loopholes allowing them to dodge paying tax remain, which is denying Australians billions of dollars of extra revenue.

On top of that, $90 million has been put aside to increase gas supply, which includes funding to investigate whether spending billions on building gas pipelines across the country makes sense. We already know the answer - it doesn't.

All this means nothing for households and businesses, who will pay sky-high gas or electricity prices in the next few years. Household power bills are set to increase by at least 30 per cent from July, and that trend will continue.

Backing renewables would immediately take the pressure off yet wasn't mentioned once in the Treasurer's budget speech. That's despite the fact renewables have already won the cost race - wind and solar are now the most affordable new-build electricity generation technology.

Every dollar we waste on old, outdated technologies is a dollar denied to the future-forward technologies we will be using for decades to come. With the effects of climate change increasing, this is no time to be horsing around.

  • Nicky Ison is a founding director of the Community Power Agency