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Wind farms, solar to be ‘key part’ of Federal Government’s energy strategy, Minister says

Renewable energy will be a “key part” of the Federal Government’s energy platform, the newly elevated Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg says.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott was vocal in his opposition to the sector, describing wind farms as “visually awful” and saying he wished the Renewable Energy Target (RET) had never been introduced by the Howard government.

The industry, which lost 88 per cent of investment over the past year, amid uncertainty over the RET, had been hopeful the Government’s attitude would change under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

However Mr Turnbull, who lost the party leadership in 2009 over his support for the Rudd government’s proposed Emission Trading Scheme, said he was in favour of retaining the Government’s current climate change policies.

“The climate policy is one that I think has been very well designed that was a very, very good piece of work,” he said after he took the leadership last week.

But today, Mr Frydenberg told 774 ABC Melbourne that “clearly renewable energy is a key part of our energy platform”.

“I think wind farms, I think solar, I think they all have a role to play,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg was asked by host Jon Faine if describing renewable energy as a “key platform” represented a u-turn for the Government.

“Don’t play it up to be bigger than it is Jon, what I’m saying is that we as a Coalition Government have entered into a bipartisan agreement with the Labor Party, on a 23.5 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, this will see a doubling of large scale renewable energy,” he said.

“I’m saying that we have a commitment to renewable energy, that existed under the Abbott government and will exist under the Turnbull Government, and my good friend and colleague Greg Hunt will be driving that agenda in many respects.
External Link: 774 ABC Melbourne tweet

“When you talk about coal, that’s a very important part of our energy mix, both here at home as well as overseas and will continue to be because it creates thousands of jobs and is an important source of electricity for much of the developing world.

“I don’t see these issues as mutually exclusive.”

Policy manager for the Clean Energy Council Darren Gladman said Mr Frydenberg’s comments were “extremely encouraging” for the industry.

“It is no secret that the last couple of years were both challenging and frustrating for the renewable energy industry under former prime minister Tony Abbott,” he said in a statement.

“The renewable energy industry is looking forward to working with Minister Frydenberg, as well as continuing to build on our relationship with Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who clearly recognises the potential of technologies like solar, wind, bio-energy and energy efficiency to create a strong platform for Australia’s future prosperity.

“Australia has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, and we believe the new Government can see the job and investment benefits of these newer forms of energy for rural and regional areas of the country.”

It is unclear whether plans to establish a wind farm commissioner to deal with complaints about the renewable energy turbines will go ahead under the new administration.

Victoria hopeful for public transport investment

The Government also indicated it would change tack on supporting investment in public transport.

The Victorian Government is optimistic it will secure Federal funding for the Melbourne Metro Rail project after comments from Mr Turnbull on the weekend.

In announcing a new “cities and the built environment” portfolio, to be held by Jamie Briggs, Mr Turnbull said the Government would no longer prioritise roads over public transport.

“We shouldn’t be discriminating between one form of transit and another,” he said on Sunday.

“There is no … ‘roads are not better than mass transit’ or vice versa, each of them has their place.

“Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits.

“There is no place for ideology here at all. The critical thing is to ensure that we get the best outcome in our cities.”

Victoria’s Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the new direction was good news for the State Government’s bid to secure funding for the Melbourne Metro Rail project.

“I think there are encouraging signs that are now coming out of Canberra that would give the Victorian community every reason to be optimistic that we will secure federal funding for the Melbourne Metro Rail project,” she said.