Minister refuses to answer 'basic' question in bizarre interview

·News Reporter
·4-min read

A federal government minister has appeared in a bizarre interview where he refused to answer a “basic” question.

Keith Pitt, the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, was speaking with Sky News’s Tom Connell on Monday about energy when he was asked about wind farms.

Mr Pitt appeared on Sky News to discuss the government’s decision to recently veto a $280 million loan for a North Queensland wind farm.

He states one of the reasons for the government’s decision is whether the energy is dispatchable.

Connell asks Mr Pitt what size battery would be needed to make a 157 megawatt wind farm dispatchable.

Keith Pitt, the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, pictured during an interview on Sky News.
Keith Pitt, the Minister for Resources, was asked about his decision to veto funding to a $280 million project in North Queensland. Source: Sky News

“Well Tom, what I can tell you is that that intermittent wind and solar is not dispatchable,” Mr Pitt tells the program.

Connell responds, “That’s a basic question” and that solar and wind energy is dispatchable if a battery is “big enough”.

Mr Pitt says he’s “made a decision” to which Connell interjects “it’s just a basic question”.

“I know you’ve got an engineering background,” Connell says.

“Solar and wind is not dispatchable unless it has a battery. That’s true, right? Depending on the size of the battery.”

Mr Pitt says “unless it has other sources”.

“It could be hybrid. It could be gas. It could be tied up with the hydro. It could be pumped hydro. It could be diesel,” he says.

Connell asks “It could be battery?” to which Mr Pitt responds: “It could be any number of things”.

“But it could be a battery,” Connell says.

“Tom, as I’ve said many times,” Mr Pitt says.

Sky News host Tom Connell is pictured.
Sky News's Tom Connell repeatedly asked if a battery could be used to back up a wind farm. Source: Sky News

Connell says he doesn’t understand why Mr Pitt “won’t agree that a battery could back up a wind farm”.

“As I’ve said it comes down to a whole pile of decisions including capacity availability,” Mr Pitt says.

But Connell wants an answer and again asks: “Can a battery back up a wind farm?”

“Well, once again. How big is it?” Mr Pitt says.

“How long does it run for? What is it that you want it to do?”

Connell asks if a big enough battery can back up a wind farm.

“Well, this is pretty broad and hypothetical, Tom,” Mr Pitt says.

Connell laughs it off and says it “just seems like a simple question” and asks how big a battery would need to be.

“How big is big enough?” Mr Pitt asks.

“Well, I don’t know. You tell me,” Connell says.

“That’s the exact question,” Mr Pitt says.

Connell then decides to move on.

Minister vetoed $280 million loan

Mr Pitt recently vetoed to stop a $280 million loan to the Kaban green power hub, which comprises a 157 megawatt wind farm and 100 megawatt battery in Far North Queensland.

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) recommended the project receive a loan.

"We're about affordable, reliable and dispatchable power, so it didn't meet the requirements for the government's policy," Mr Pitt told Sky News on Monday.

"The decision I've made is on the ability for the project and the proponent for dispatchable, affordable, reliable power, and that's what I've done.

"A statement of reasons will be provided in the parliament, as is required by the legislation."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) arrives with Minister for Resources Keith Pitt for Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives with Mr Pitt for Question Time in the House of Representatives last year. Source: Getty Images

NAIF has previously loaned money to multiple energy projects, including gas, hydro power and a hybrid solar and gas plant.

The Kaban project has been put forward by Neoen, the company responsible for South Australia's Hornsdale Power Reserve – the largest lithium-ion battery in the world.

Kaban has a power purchase agreement with Queensland government-owned CleanCo to support the state's target of 50 per cent renewable electricity by 2030.

The federal government has no renewable energy target, with the coalition instead focused on ensuring power supply is reliable.

A wind farm in Tasmania is pictured.
A wind farm in Tasmania. Source: AAP

Another $58.6 million has been set aside in Tuesday's federal budget to help support gas pipelines, port terminals and new gas fields.

The government released an interim National Gas Infrastructure Plan alongside the funding.

The final version will be released later this year and will be the government's blueprint for the east coast gas market until 2040.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has also flagged additional funding to fill the gap left by the impending closure of AGL's coal-fired Liddell power plant.

People perplexed over ‘satirical’ interview

On Twitter, people compared the back and forth between Connell and Mr Pitt to an episode of Clarke and Dawe.

“This isn’t real, right?” one man tweeted.

Another man added “satire is dead”.

“This is farcical,” one woman tweeted.

Others called it a train wreck interview, “embarrassing” and “simply absurd”.

with AAP

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