Renewable energy will kill people this winter, Craig Kelly, the chair of the Coalition’s backbench environment and energy committee has claimed.
Kelly, a Liberal backbencher, said the deaths would be caused by people not being able to afford to heat their homes in winter. He blamed rising fuel costs on the government’s renewable energy target.
“People will die,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.
Kelly, MP for Hughes in New South Wales, cited recent reports that one-in-four Australian households this winter will be frightened to turn on the heater due to high power prices. He also said the World Health Organisation has made it clear that winter mortality rates increase if people can’t afford to heat their homes.
Most of that research, however, was done in Europe, where winters can be much colder. Some work done in Australia by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare found that at least some of the excess deaths in winter in Australia were caused by heating.
“There are $3bn this year being paid in subsidies for renewable energy, that pushes up the price of electricity to the consumer,” Kelly said.
That claim, however, is contradicted by the Abbott government’s Warburton review of the renewable energy target which found the scheme was putting downward pressure on prices.
And it contradicts the conclusion of most industry groups, the Finkel review and many other reports finding the key driver of high power prices is policy uncertainty, which is driving down investment in new generation and allowing expensive gas-fired power plants to dominate the market.
Labor’s energy spokesman, Mark Butler, accused Kelly of scaremongering.
“This is another appalling intervention, not just by a backbencher, but by the chair of the Coalition’s energy policy committee.”
Butler conceded households and businesses are facing high power and gas bills, but he put that down to “policy paralysis” at the national level.
Kelly’s comments come ahead of a meeting of state and federal energy ministers in Brisbane on Friday to discuss recommendations for change from the chief scientist, Prof Alan Finkel.
Every state in the national electricity market has either expressly stated their support, or hinted at their support, for the clean energy target (CET) proposed in the Finkel review but the federal minister for energy and the environment, Josh Frydenberg, has said the government will not support the CET at Friday’s meeting.
Victoria and South Australia have said that if the federal government doesn’t provide leadership, the states might go ahead and try to implement the CET without them.
Modelling shows the CET would put significant downward pressure on the price of electricity, specifically by introducing a lot of cheap renewable electricity, along with enough storage.