The Chair of the Central NSW Renewable Energy Cooperative has warned that a controversial wind farm that’s approved to be built near Blayney might not go ahead after a report into renewable energy targets was released.
A report to the federal government on Australia’s renewable energy target, by climate change sceptic Dick Warburton, has indicated the energy sector in central west NSW will be affected by the recommendation that is eventually adopted.
The Renewable Energy Target (RET) was implemented under the Howard government, but was modified under the Rudd government to require 20 per cent of Australia’s energy to be sourced from renewables by 2020.
The Warburton review said keeping the current system could cost $22b in subsidies; and has recommended two options surrounding the future of the RET: close the scheme immediately; or dramatically cut it back.
The Liberal Federal Member for Hume, Angus Taylor, said the first option would see the scheme kept in place for investments in renewable energy that have already been made, but closed to new entrants. This option has been given the label of a ‘grandfathering process’.
“If you’ve got solar panels up, or you’ve got a wind farm in place, then you’ll continue to receive the subsidies under the scheme; and even if you’re building one now, or you’ve committed to one, we’d respect that,” he said.
Under the second option, the RET would be dramatically scaled back.
“Because of slow growth in demand for electricity, we’re going to go way over this [RET] target; so this option is saying, ‘let’s bring it right back to where it was originally intended to be, which is a 20 per cent renewable target by 2020’,” said Mr Taylor.
“The scheme in both cases stays in place. In the second one there’s potentially some growth in the sector, but that really depends on how electricity demand grows in the coming years.”
The Chair of the Central NSW Renewable Energy Cooperative, Patrick Bradbery said as a result of the review, the future of the approved Flyers Creek wind farm near Blayney is now in doubt.
“The Flyers Creek wind farm, in my view, will not go ahead at all; nor will any wind farm that is not already under construction.
“The economics of the wind farm are such that it doesn’t take much to tip it over from being profitable to being a loss-making situation. No body’s going to want to invest in a loss-making wind farm,” he said.
“For me, it’s a devastating blow; it’s [making] Australia the laughing stock of the world, as far as our approach to renewable energy is concerned.”
Mr Taylor said the implications of the review on wind farm developments are justified.
“What’s very clear is it will scale-back very significantly the amount of subsidy that new wind farm projects would receive [under either of these options].
“Given the cost of those projects, given that they are expensive ways to reduce carbon emissions, I think that is ultimately the right outcome.”
While the federal government will now look at the review and consider its proposals, Mr Taylor said both options being put forward are good plans of action.
“They’re two pretty good options. I have argued for some time that we should end up with an option [that’s] something like these two. I’m sure there’ll be refinements in the detail,” he said.
“What they’re seeking to do is balance the cost of pursuing renewable energy, (and they are big costs), with the need to continue to respect investments that have been made in the past and to continue to pursue our target of emissions reduction by 2020. That target is iron-clad; we are not moving from that.”
Wind farms aren’t the only renewable energy industry in western NSW that could be affected by the RET review. Solar energy could also come under threat, but Mr Taylor said jobs in that sector should be safe.
“I’m actually much less concerned about jobs in the solar sector [where we see the most jobs in the renewable energy sector in regional areas] because solar has actually been quite successful.
“There will be change, but I think in fact, we will see continued growth in that sector in the coming years.”
Dr Bradbery said he expected the RET review’s findings and thinks they’re ‘disastrous’.
“From the moment the panel was set-up with Warburton (a climate sceptic) in charge, it was quite obvious what the intention was, and that intention has been played-out in the report.
“We have to keep going and keep reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that we put into the atmosphere, as long as it’s possible. To think that we’re ahead of the game is a cause for celebration, not for scaling-back,” he said.
Dr Bradbery said both possibilities being put forward will limit the renewable energy sector, and will favour ‘dirty’ energy production.
“[The coal and gas industry executives] will be rubbing their hands with glee. It’s been estimated that there will be a $10b windfall for coal and gas industries from this, if it’s adopted.
“There will be the possibility that those who are already in business will continue in business; but if the other alternative is adopted then they’ll be out of business.
“Even with the ‘grandfathering’ clause, the fact that we will no longer have new entrants to the RET means that there will be very few investments in renewables, particularly in wind energy in Australia.”
The federal government will now consider its response based on the RET review’s recommendations.
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