Future Shock – Our New Series On Energy


Energy used to be boring. Big power plants burnt coal to create electricity, and big poles and wires carried it to your home. Demand always went up, and power was cheap. That’s the way it has been in Australia for decades. Now it’s changing, fast.

Suddenly, disruptive innovation is everywhere. The carbon price is here. A gas boom has drilled holes all over inland Australia. Renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper. Solar panels can make energy on your roof more cheaply than you can buy it from the grid. South Australia has so much wind, it’s driven the wholesale price of electricity down there. And that guaranteed increase in demand, year-in, year-out? It’s over. With consumers reeling from bill shock, electricity demand is now falling.

Energy is changing so fast that government and business are struggling to keep up. Whether it’s restrictive rules on wind power to combat a health problem that doesn’t exist, or a system for regulating the electricity industry that rewards energy companies at the expense of ordinary consumers, Australian energy is riddled with special interests, powerful lobby groups and thickets of red tape. Meanwhile, the world keeps on warming.

This special eight-part series from New Matilda explores the future of energy in Australia. Working with a team of dedicated interns from Australian journalism schools, I have spent the better part of 2012 researching the rapid transformation of energy in Australia.

We’ve done this series on a tight budget — if it’s something you’d like to see more of on New Matilda, fund the site today. Every subscription helps us do more investigative and public interest journalism.

Over the next fortnight, we’ll be exploring the transformation of Australia’s energy sector, and what it means for ordinary Australians. What’s causing your electricity bills to skyrocket? And what can we expect in the future?

We’ll take you to outback Chinchilla in western Queensland, and to Waubra, the best known wind power battleground. We’ll also explore the energy industry itself, and explain the way electricity is generated, distributed and sold to ordinary consumers. We’ll look at major energy technologies, such as wind, solar and coal-seam gas, and we’ll explain what "Green Power" really means. Finally, we’ll get out the crystal ball.

Incorporating a detailed statistical snapshot of the Australian energy sector, dozens of interviews with industry experts and analysts, and field trips to affected communities, this major investigation will help you understand the ongoing transformation in a trillion dollar global industry that affects us all.

Today in Future Shock, read my first installment on the gas industry and Belinda Eslick’s profile of the Queensland town of Chinchilla.

And don’t forget to fund New Matilda here.

Ben Eltham is New Matilda's National Affairs Correspondent.