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Carbon capture and storage – A real opportunity in the quest for Zero Emissions

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Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (18:51): It is a pleasure to rise and actually support a bill, which does not happen very often, as we know. But I think this is one of those rare examples where parties of different colours and even across different jurisdictions have come to a common point.

I know there will be no opposition to this bill from either of the major parties. I am not sure whether there is going to be any opposition from any of the other parties, but if there is not, they have certainly missed the debate.

I am a strong supporter of the federal system. I am also a strong supporter of the principle of subsidiarity, but of course that is a slightly different matter. But one of the consequences of a federal system is that we do have this multiplicity of structures.

One of the challenges that we have, and we have it in common with the United States, is that we have this system of state waters or coastal waters that run out to the 3-nautical mile limit, or 5.5 kilometres, and then we get to the territorial sea, which runs out to the 12-nautical mile limit.

Of course this is not about the area of the sea or the water column but of the seabed and the geological structures underneath it, and managing to cross and utilise a geological structure that transcends those boundaries is the subject of this bill.

The other important aspect of this bill is that it is about utilising carbon capture and storage—and utilising carbon capture and storage where a suitable site exists. The member for Gippsland South talked extensively about the appropriateness of the site and so on, but carbon capture and storage is also an important opportunity, an important option, in terms of our journey towards a carbon-constrained environment and hopefully to a zero-carbon future. Carbon capture and storage is a tool that can assist to get us there.

Since I was first elected and in fact long before—but certainly since I was first elected—I have argued that climate change is real and I have argued that climate change is anthropogenic. My focus has always been on solutions.

In fact if we go back to 2008—and you would remember, Speaker, the house sat at Churchill—we debated not the original legislation in terms of this bill but complementary legislation at that sitting. I think probably it is fair to say that the application of carbon capture and storage has evolved since that time.

The practical application of it, the purpose of it, is different, but the nature of the beast is exactly the same—‘beast’ is probably not the right word to use at the moment in the context of other debates.

But at the sitting in the Latrobe Valley the government largely talked about the way carbon capture and storage gave us an opportunity to continue to utilise brown coal, and the debate again and again talked about the significant resource we of course had in the Latrobe Valley and talked about 500 years of use or whatever.

I noted in the debate that we were talking about pipelines, and I think there had been a convention of the Australian Pipelines and Gas Association just before that sitting. The point was made that the Latrobe Valley was an ideal location because it had these geological structures close to the point of emission whereas other states do not. In Queensland I think it is 500 kilometres away; in South Australia and New South Wales it is considerably further.

So the emphasis was on continuing to utilise brown coal.

We then talked about the essential requirement to get the framework right and, as I mentioned, we talked again and again about the abundance of brown coal and the importance of it to the state’s economy.

The intervening 12 years of course have seen rapid advancement in the field of renewables, and I think even the most optimistic, probably, at that time would not have seen how rapid that advancement would be. So the question now is no longer if we can get to a renewable-run energy system; the question is how quickly.

But carbon capture and storage still has a very important role to play, and that is why this bill is important. Perhaps that role is not as central as we expected in 2008, but it is important in terms of the transition.

Cheap, reliable energy is a bedrock requirement for any economy. It is as much a requirement now as it was when the State Electricity Commission of Victoria first began operations in the Latrobe Valley about a century ago.

Unfortunately we are not yet at the point where 100 per cent renewables will provide that cheap and reliable source, particularly  reliability but also price. Prices are continuing to fall, and that trend, as expertise develops and as capacity is added, is going to continue. Storage opportunities will also expand. Network reliability will improve.

We are moving in the right direction as a state and internationally, but we are not there yet and I doubt very much if we will be there in the time frame that we would like to be, because we need to cut emissions rapidly and we need to cut emissions more rapidly than current technology allows.

Now, I know there are some who would argue that we should abolish all fossil fuel based systems tomorrow, that we should not engage in carbon capture and storage and that we should simply rely on wind power, on solar power and on those options. But the fact is we are not there yet, and we are not going to be there for a considerable period.

Until the storage equation is solved in some way, whether it be pumped hydro or whether it be Mr Musk’s major batteries, we need other ways of bridging that gap.

If you care about jobs and if you care about people, then you know we have to have these transitional measures in place. Carbon capture and storage is a real opportunity to make that transition—to get to where we want to go, to get to a zero-carbon economy and to do so in a way that is not only safe, cost effective and reliable but particularly makes an economic contribution to the region and to the state. As I think the member for Frankston mentioned, there are plenty of jobs attached to this opportunity as well.

So this is a rare example, as I said, of parties of different colours—different jurisdictions even—being in accord on this particular issue, but I think it is an excellent opportunity. It is a shame, perhaps, that it has taken as long as it did to get to there— (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: I will interrupt the member there. I am required to do that under sessional orders. The member will have the opportunity to continue his speech when this matter is next before the house.

Business interrupted under resolution of house of 8 June.