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Senator Chris Back clears up misconceptions in Esperance

I thank Mr Raszyk for his questions as there are many misconceptions within the community regarding the effectiveness and the cost of power generated by wind turbines.

His questions haveprovided the opportunity to clarify some of these issues.

I have referred to wind turbines as intermittent sources of power. Wind turbines are not baseload, dispatchable or scheduled generators.

Wind energy output is crucially dependent on the vagaries of the wind.

It is almost impossible to predict days or even hours in advance when the wind will blow, for how long and how strongly. Wind power is a weather dependent source of generation.

1. What are the $500,000 subsidies per wind farm each year that he refers to?

Firstly to correct the question, I referred to a subsidy that is received by EACH TURBINE each year.

Not each wind farm each year. I stated this subsidy is approximately $500,000 per turbine per year.

This is an underestimate. The actual figure in today’s terms is approximately $848,810 per 3MW turbine per year paid until 2031.

The size of the turbines currently seeking planning approval at various rural sites in Western Australia are 2.5 to 3 MW turbines.

This is distinctly different to the size of turbine built in 1993 at Ten Mile wind farm which consists of nine turbines of 225 kilowatts each, some 10% of the capacity of modern wind turbines.

The payment of this ‘subsidy’ is legislated by the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 and commonly referred to as the Renewable Energy Target (RET). This is a mandated payment to renewable energy generators on a per megawatt basis.

For each megawatt of electricity generated by a turbine, one large-scale generation certificate (LGC) is issued to the generator (a wind farm) by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER). Today’s spot price for LGC’s on the market is approximately $85 per certificate.

This subsidy or levy is paid for in the retail price of electricity by power consumers.

That is, every household, business, school and hospital pays for the cost of the certificates in the retail price of electricity.

The total cost of this subsidy to Australian power consumers is estimated to be $1.16 billion per year. Approximately 33 million of these certificates are currently being held in the market. With a value of $85 for each certificate, that’s over $13 billion dollars which will be passed on to the consumer via the retail price of electricity.

This amount is added on top of the amount paid for the electricity produced and sold.

Liability for the turbines rests with landowner. Farmers who neighbour wind farms have reported that since the day a proposed wind farm was announced in their area, their properties have become so significantly reduced in value that they are unsaleable.

As one farmer put it, “We just want to move away and we can’t as buyers are concerned about the health issues and loss of production.”

I refer to Mr Raszyk’s comment, “It saddens me to know that a minimum of 25 per cent of wind energy (100 per cent renewable energy) is going to waste.” While the wind is a renewable resource,the electricity generated by wind turbines is not.

A study was done in 2015 by Dr Joseph Wheatley to verify claims made by the wind industry that wind power generation reduces or abates CO2 emissions in the electricity sector.

The result of analysis of the actual data in the National Electricity Market (NEM) in eastern Australia in 2014 shows that wind power production has overstated the emissions reductions by 22% and that this percentage will continue to increase if the percentage of wind power entering the NEM increases.

This is because wind power is an intermittent source and requires back-up power from a base-load source such as that provided by natural gas or diesel powered turbines.

2. How can Esperance residents install pv panels on roofs economically when Horizon Power has stopped all solar installs unless combined with storage and specialised power smoothing requirements?

With regard to my comment, “Solar is now,” it is becoming more economically viable for landowners who would like to set-up off grid to construct stand-alone solar and battery systems.

These systems allow the landowner to reduce the costs of grid connection and maintenance.

As solar and battery technology advances, I expect these options will become more widely installed.

There are other renewable off-grid options available. Martin Biopower’s on-farm waste to energy system turns waste into energy and is the size of a shipping container.

The south coast has enormous potential for wave energy plants. Carnegie’s Wave Energy plant at Garden Island is a showcase example.

In regards to my comment, ”Esperance has a proud history of actually using renewables”, I was referring to the Ten Mile wind farm which was one of the first wind farms to be constructed in Australia in 1993.

The Ten Mile facility grew out of Australia's first experimental wind farm built in Esperance in 1987 and Synergy operates two wind farms Ten Mile and the Nine Mile Beach which was commissioned in 2003.

3. Has a scoping and or a feasibility study been carried out on these issues – if so are these available to the public?

Last year the Senate held an Inquiry into Wind Turbines and produced a number of important recommendations. During the Inquiry, the committee received over 500 submissions and hundreds of witnesses gave harrowing evidence at eight public hearings that were held across Australia.

We heard evidence from experts from USA, Canada, UK and New Zealand. We received submissions written in French, Danish and German.

The evidence that the committee received is considered the most comprehensive collection of evidence in the world.

Among the Senate’s recommendations, recommendation 14 reads as follows: The committee recommends that the Australian Government direct the Productivity Commission to conduct research into the impact of wind power electricity generation on retail electricity prices. The

Government is yet to respond to the recommendations of the Inquiry. Further information regarding the Senate Inquiry is available for readers by calling my office on 90714846.

I hope this important recommendation is supported in our current term of government and I will be progressing this issue as you have suggested.

Dr Chris Back

Liberal Senator for Western Australia