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Nuclear plan a ‘big danger’ to investment in renewables

Uncertainty in Australia's energy policy would endanger investment, as one in five approval requests are for renewable projects, the environment minister says.

Uncertainty in Australia's energy policy would endanger investment, as one in five approval requests are for renewable projects, the environment minister says. Photo: AAP

One in five projects in Australia’s environment assessment pipeline are renewable energy projects, as voters are warned the coalition’s nuclear plan poses a “big danger” to clean investment.

The opposition has pledged to build seven nuclear plants across five states on the sites of coal-fired power stations if it wins the federal election.

Costs have not been revealed, and doubt has been cast over its aim to complete the first facility between 2035 and 2037.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said 20 per cent of the projects before her for approval were renewables which were at “record highs”.

“The big danger is that Peter Dutton will distract and divert investment, and at the end of the day, he won’t tell Australians what this will cost,” she told ABC’s RN.

“Anybody in the energy sector will tell you that uncertainty kills investment.”

Plibersek said there was “no shortage” of interest in renewable projects because investors understood nuclear was “expensive and unattainable”.

“We’ve got more than 3 million Australian homes that have got solar panels on the roof, not because it’s more expensive, not because they’re all mad greenies, it’s because it brings down power bills,” she said.

Every affected state leader has condemned the proposal, with NSW and Victorian premiers Chris Minns and Jacinta Allan vowing to block nuclear power plants in their states.

That stance has also been echoed on the coalition side by Queensland’s opposition leader David Crisafuli.

“It’s not part of our plan,” he said.

But on Saturday Dutton noted commonwealth laws override state laws, meaning their opposition would not stop a federal coalition government.

In a 2019 inquiry report into nuclear energy tabled under the previous Liberal government, committee chair and Queensland MP Ted O’Brien wrote “the will of the people should be honoured” and “nuclear power plants or waste facilities should not be imposed upon local communities that are opposed”.

Pressed on this, the opposition energy spokesman tried to dodge the question before saying “what I wrote in the report then is consistent with this term of government”.

Though he said he did not think locals would reject the proposal, a survey from the Australia Institute shows 65 per cent of Australians are not prepared to pay any more to have nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix, regardless of their voting intentions.

A Resolve poll published on Sunday night showed 41 per cent of respondents supported the use of nuclear power, 37 per cent were opposed to the idea and 22 per cent were undecided.

In a separate question in the Resolve Political Monitor, conducted for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, 43 per cent preferred a Labor plan for renewables supported by gas for the next 10-20 years while 33 per cent opted for a coalition plan for nuclear power and some gas to support renewables.

The poll surveyed about 1000 eligible voters from Thursday to Sunday.

A report released by the Smart Energy Council reveals it could cost up to $600 billion to build the seven plants, which would deliver just 3.7 per cent of Australia’s energy mix in 2050.

– AAP

Topics: Nuclear
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