Since the introduction of the carbon price in July 2012, emissions from the National Electricity Market serving eastern Australia have fallen about 8.9 per cent, in part due to less demand from a shrinking manufacturing sector. By 2020, under current projections, wind, hydro and other renewable sources will supply more than 20 per cent, perhaps as high as 27 per cent, of our electricity needs.
So we appear to be on track. But, in what appears to be an increasingly common loathing for anything to do with tracks or Labor or anything green (unless it’s a paper abolishing regulations), Tony looks set to derail us again.
He has announced he will head an energy policy task force that will be “looking at new options to reduce the costs of energy.” He has also renamed the Australian Cleantech Competition – it will now be known as the Australian Technologies Competition.
“We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower … cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages … what we will be looking at is what we need to do to get power prices down significantly,” the prime minister said.
The Australian Energy Market Commission says the renewable energy target (RET) comprises less than 1 percent of the average household electricity bill. The Queensland Competition Authority notes in its latest finding that the large-scale renewable target (the apparent subject of the new government’s attacks) will cost Queensland households $26 a year, or about 1.3% of their bills - about half the rise in retail bills caused by soaring gas prices.
Climate Institute chief executive Erwin Jackson said
“For a cost of 80 cents a week for the average household, the RET has attracted billions of dollars in investment and cut millions of tons of emissions. That’s a pretty good investment.”
Kane Thornton, deputy chief executive of the Clean Energy Council agrees saying
“Any substantial change to the Renewable Energy Target would obviously have a big impact on the future of the solar industry. The goal makes up a very small proportion of power bills while creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment, much of which flows into regional areas.”
The solar PV industry employed about 13,600 as of late 2013. Research by industry group SolarBusinessServices suggested that would dive immediately by 2000 if the government were to end support for the industry by scrapping the RET, with the total number of jobs lost or foregone swelling to 6750 by 2018. A reduction on the goal that resulted in the halving of the price of small-scale renewable energy certificates would lead to about 600 solar jobs going.
With no policy change, 8000 jobs will be generated between 2014-18, assuming a floating carbon price – something the Abbott government has vowed to scrap – and electricity and PV prices would continue to fall, the report said.
Solar panels generated more than 25 per cent of South Australia’s electricity on January 4, 19 and 25 and supplied significant amounts during the state’s recent heatwaves, according to a new service supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency that tracks PV’s contribution to power supply.
In yet another waste of time and money, the Abbott Government has also announced yet another pointless inquiry into the health impacts of windfarms even though the overwhelming scientific consensus is that wind turbines have no health effects on the surrounding populations. Could it be because Tony’s adviser on all things, Maurice Newman, doesn’t want them near his property?
“Even before they threatened my property, I was opposed to wind farms.”
The Abbott government have also cut $435 million funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and deferred $370 million funding announced by Labor in the 2013 budget to the agency, until the next decade.
Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Tony Mohr said:
“The axing of $435 million from ARENA will starve research and development of clean energy in Australia, moving us to the back of the global race for clean tech.”
Australian Solar Council chief John Grimes called on the Parliament to block any attempt to gut the agency.
“The work that ARENA does is an excellent example of direct action,” he said. “This independent agency, with its annual funding prescribed in legislation, back practical programs. This is about real action in the real world.”
In another incomprehensible move, the government has decided to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which was set to invest $10 billion in low-carbon technologies, while achieving up to half the government’s emissions reduction target, and return a profit to the budget.
“The strong positive response from the market has enabled the CEFC to successfully build a total loan portfolio of $536 million funding projects with a value of over $2.2 billion.
Our portfolio represents a diverse mix across the economy, with projects comprising 56 per cent of renewables, 30 per cent in energy efficiency and 14 per cent in low emissions technologies. We have financed projects involving wind, solar, and bioenergy across Australia (both on grid and off grid), as well as energy efficiency and low emissions technology projects in manufacturing, buildings and local government.
The CEFC portfolio of contracted investments is presently expected to earn an average return of approximately 7 per cent, around 4 per cent above our benchmark return of the Government five-year bond rate.
Co-financing is integral to our strategy. Through matched private sector funds of $2.90 for each $1 of CEFC investment, the CEFC has been able to catalyse over $1.55 billion in non-CEFC private capital investment in projects and programs to deploy renewables and to improve energy efficiency.
The response that we have received from the market has remained extremely encouraging and we currently have 179 project proponents in our pipeline for projects to the estimated value of $14.9 billion.”
The march towards renewable energy is inevitable yet we are being held back by Tony’s ties to the fossil fuel industry which is determined to place every impediment in the way to prolong their profit-making at the expense of our jobs, our health and our home.
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