I want to take this opportunity to revisit the Auditor-General’s report entitled Facilitating Renewable Energy Development, which was tabled in April 2011. I note the conclusion of the report states:
… while total renewable energy generation has increased, efforts to increase the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources have proven not to be effective.
It goes on to say:
… achievement of targets has been undermined by poor planning.
That is mainly in reference to solar energy.
There is no doubt the Victorian community has embraced solar as a renewable energy source to provide power for its own needs and to sell excess energy through the feed-in tariff. There has been a tremendous expansion of this industry since this report was tabled. I also note that the Napthine government has been a very strong supporter in facilitating the growth of this industry.
However, it is the wind industry that I want to put under the microscope for a number of reasons. The first reason is the most important, and that is because it is the most divisive industry I have seen in regional Victoria. It is costly to produce energy this way. At page 3 the report states that it costs $100 per kilowatt to generate compared to fossil fuels, which cost $35 per kilowatt to generate, and gas, which costs $65. My introduction to this Parliament was to be placed under scrutiny for being a land-holder near an active wind farm permit site that was eight years old with no sign of construction.
Even now the Mount Gellibrand wind farm has not started construction and the owner of the permit, Acciona Australia, has only met the conditions of the extension by placing a portable fence on the site while it haggles with landowners over the terms of payment.
That aside, there is something just not right about the wind industry. Permits lay idle. Those wind farms that are built and operating are only operating at 16 per cent efficiency. Wholesalers are reluctant to purchase power. Renewable energy targets are not being met. Renewable energy certificates are being heavily funded by the Australian taxpayer. At page 9 of the report under the heading ‘Background’, it states:
… the government does not have a direct role in energy generation. Rather, its role is to facilitate the private sector’s development of energy.
On the same page, under the heading ‘Conclusion’, it states that the renewable energy targets have not been effective. The wind energy targets set in 2002 have not been met by their original target date of 2010. In fact in seven years renewable energy consumption only increased by 0.3 per cent to around 3.9 per cent of total generation. All this aside, the Abbott federal government is reviewing the renewable energy targets. What troubles me is the high expectation that was placed on wind energy to provide supportive energy generation to our electricity grids at a price and efficiency of supply that would be self-supporting. There is no doubt that the social dislocation that wind generation has caused in my region of Western Victoria is disturbing.
The fact that this government is contributing $100 000 to a national study of the health impacts of wind turbines on people adds legitimacy to the argument of those who believe subsonic noise from wind turbines is affecting their sleep patterns.
The fact that the first wind farm in Victoria at Waubra has still not received a notice of compliance indicates that independent noise testing standards are not robust enough. This comes on top of a reported investigation of missing native animal data as part of the application process, which has been referred to Victoria Police. It raises more questions on the validity of this taxpayer-funded renewable energy industry than it answers.
In summary, the Auditor-General’s report spends much of its time on the solar industry and its conclusions and recommendations are specifically directed to that renewable source. What it does not do is put the wind industry under the spotlight, given that targets set after 2006 have never been met and the industry has never been able to demonstrate it will ever have the capacity to generate any of the supporting energy that was envisaged.
That was clearly illustrated on the recent 40-degree days that drained our supplies of fossil fuel-generated energy when our renewable technologies were unable to replace or even support those supplies.
The audit summary looked at whether the development of renewable energy has been facilitated effectively. I would conclude that the wind energy sector has never reached expectations and targets despite having had a large amount of financial support. I look forward to a more detailed report on the renewable energy industry and further consideration of its ability to produce a price-competitive kilowatt of energy that does not have the social and health consequences that have been reported since this report was tabled.
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