Dutton’s and Littleproud’s huge economic own goal

Jul 2, 2024
Solar farm and nuclear power plant with cooling towers in background. Ecology.

The Dutton-Littleproud nuclear plan will make us poorer than we need to be and leave us more heavily in debt.

Imagine Australia run by a benevolent despot with some technical knowledge or at least the willingness to listen to experts.

He or she would be transforming the energy sector as fast as possible, expanding the system to “electrify everything” and to accommodate new industries based on low-cost power.

But there would be no nuclear. We can say this with absolute confidence. Nuclear power stations take too long to build, and their power is way too expensive compared with solar, wind and storage.

So why are we even talking about nuclear?

It’s pure politics. Mr Dutton and Mr Littleproud think they can win voters with their plan.

It has a certain clarity that the Governments’s policy lacks: on the one hand, Chris Bowen, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, is working hard to transform the energy sector; on the other, Madeleine King, Minister for Resources, is approving gas projects as fast as she can.

Mr Littleproud even wants to “put a cap” on large renewable energy projects. How absurd!

As The Economist said this week, wind and especially solar power will continue their astonishing downward cost trajectory as far ahead as we can see. Solar will become the dominant energy source for the world, and energy will be cheaper than ever before. New industries will spring up to replace the old. Mr Littleproud wants to stop Australia from being part of the global energy revolution and to forgo its great opportunity to make green metals, polysilicon and products derived from green hydrogen. Meanwhile, our existing coal and gas export industries are bound to decline.

If the Dutton-Littleproud plan prevails, Australia by mid-century will be poorer than it needs to be and more heavily indebted. But, hey, a small part of our energy will be nuclear power, and we may have one or two nuclear submarines. Won’t it be wonderful?

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