The switch to “clean green” energy sources will cost households up to 40 per cent more on their power bill, Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has said.
Mr Macfarlane said it was inevitable there would be “big jumps” in power bills, but said most people were unaware of the looming increases.
“I don’t think the consumers fully understand the price tag associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he told The Courier-Mail in an exclusive interview.
“There is no doubt that if we are going to lower greenhouse gas emissions then electricity is going to cost significantly more ““ for consumers it will be anywhere between 20 and 40 per cent.”
Mr Macfarlane said the price rise would occur during the next decade as the nation moved to cleaner, but more expensive energy sources such as clean coal technology.
His estimate of a jump of up to 40 per cent in power bills is at the high end of industry expectations. But with the average annual household electricity bill in southeast Queensland about $1300 to $1400, a 40 per cent price rise would add more than $500 ““ or $125 a quarter ““ to the average power bill.
Last month, nuclear advocate Ziggy Switkowski said the increase in power bills would probably “not be noticeable” for consumers.
But Mr Macfarlane said the cost of electricity production from coal-fired powered stations would almost double from $35 a megawatt-hour to more than $60 as gas emissions were cut.
Coal is the main source of electricity and delivers 90 per cent of Queensland’s power.
Labor’s climate change spokesman, Peter Garrett, yesterday accused the Government of failing to take action on global warming and said it was impossible to make predictions about future energy prices.
“In the absence of any targets, timelines and any certainty in greenhouse gas reductions the Government effectively leaves the issue of prices up in the air,” Mr Garrett said.
Prime Minister John Howard has refused to ratify the Kyoto agreement that sets targets for cutting emissions but earlier this month set-up a taskforce to examine a global emissions trading system. Mr Macfarlane angrily rejected the accusation the Government has failed to act and said more than three years ago it began pursuing technology-based solutions.
He believes it is time for a detailed debate about the impact of cutting emissions and is highly critical of those who promote wind and solar power as a potential solution to future energy needs. He said solar power was four to five times more expensive than electricity from coal and that wind power was twice as expensive ““ even though it was heavily subsidised.
“While the energy source is free, converting that to electricity is expensive,” he said of wind and solar power. The Government believes nuclear energy can be a future source of clean energy, but Labor has ruled it out as too dangerous.
All nations, including Australia, are under pressure to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as a blanket of carbon dioxide around the earth and is blamed for heating up the atmosphere.
Labor’s industry spokesman Kim Carr says the longer the nation waits to change energy sources the more it will cost.
By Clinton Porteous
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