Asia Minute: Australia’s Politics of Energy

May 21, 2019

Credit Lachlan Fearnley / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Political commentators in Australia are moving on from their initial shock about this weekend’s elections. The center-right party of Prime Minister Scott Morrison stunned political pollsters by defeating the opposition Labor Party. One likely future battleground: renewable energy.

Some political commentators in Australia called this the “climate election.” Of course, most commentators got the results of this election very wrong — predictions were that Labor would sweep to an easy majority.

Part of Labor’s platform was a “climate change action plan,” which called for half of Australia’s energy to come from renewable sources by the year 2030 — along with a heavy cut to carbon emissions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal party promised a much smaller reduction of carbon emissions and a 23.5% renewable energy share by 2020 with no further commitments.

Renewable energy has grown in recent years down under — the Clean Energy Council of Australia says that as of 2018, renewables made up more than 21% of the country’s electricity generation — up from 17% just a year earlier.

But coal remains economically and politically important, and the coal industry wasted no time in sharing its post-election perspective.

The Coal Council of Australia is calling for more coal-fired power plants and an easier route to approving new mines.

The national coordinator of the Australian Wind Alliance wrote in the Canberra Times that “the war on wind and renewable energy must end for Australia to genuinely tackle our emissions problem.”

While the Prime Minister will piece together a new government in coming days, sorting out the politics of energy in Australia will take a good deal longer.