Monday, 16 November 2009

Spain's power plan is a `risk'

Courier Mail
Thursday 12/11/2009 Page: 65

ADOPTING more ambitious policies to cut Australia's reliance on coal for electricity would pose a risk to jobs and growth, Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson says. Appearing yesterday at a conference in Brisbane of the Australian geothermal industry, Mr Ferguson was asked why Australia did not follow the example of countries such as Spain and Germany in rapidly deploying renewable energy. He said: "Spain's also got very high unemployment and poor economic growth. "So we actually want to do a bit of research (into) what these countries have done and their economic outcomes. "Each country has chosen a route which best suits themselves. "Our approach will prove more successful."

Geothermal companies are trying to commercialise power plants that tap deep underground heat sources and don't emit greenhouse gases or exhaust water resources. They have begun to receive sizeable federal funding to aid development. Australian Geothermal Energy Association executive director Susan Jeanes said recent grant announcements were positive but geothermal developers needed the same funding structure as "clean coal" companies, guaranteeing funding over nine years. "We also need to know that funding is coming over a timeframe," Ms Jeanes said. "We're not going to get investors without that."

The Federal Government's biggest single direct investment in technology to slow climate change - more than $2 billion - is in clean coal. Australia's total electricity generation capacity is about 47 GWs, with 82% coming from coal. Spain now derives 22GW of electricity capacity from wind, solar and small hydro plants. Germany has 34GW of renewable energy capacity.