Wednesday, 30 December 2009

State blasts Canberra over energy policies - Projects, jobs `under threat

Thursday 24/12/2009 Page: 3

VICTORIA has attacked Canberra's policies on renewable energy, saying it is putting at risk the state's efforts to "clean up its energy generation". In a sharp rebuke to the Rudd Government, state Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said its policies had delayed investment in renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, and had undermined job creation. "We in Victoria want to move away from our overwhelming dependence on brown coal, but to do that we need to encourage investment in new wind farms," he said.

His comments came after The Age revealed that AGL Energy had serious doubts over the future of its proposed $800 million windfarm in western Victoria because of a collapse in renewable energy certificate prices. The certificates are given to energy companies for producing green power, but their value has fallen dramatically since the Federal Government awarded them to people who install solar hot water systems, even though they do not generate power. "We've seen the value of renewable energy certificates fall from over $50 in May this year to less than $35 now," Mr Batchelor said. "We are very concerned about the inability of the national renewable energy scheme to stimulate jobs and investment in Victoria."

He said he was fearful investment could be delayed for years. "So we're saying to the Federal Government, they must change the way they have structured their renewable energy scheme to put some confidence back into the renewable energy certificates and thereby bring on important investment in wind and other renewable energies."

James Purcell, Mayor of Moyne Shire - the home of the proposed 150 wind turbines in Macarthur - said the community supported the windfarm and that Macarthur was the "ideal location". "It affects very few people; it is in a large agricultural area with very few houses around it," he said. The 350-MW windfarm, with turbines 90 metres tall, was expected to be the biggest in the southern hemisphere. Cr Purcell said it would be disappointing for the shire if it were cancelled, but other renewable energy projects would continue. "I think we have got 19 wind farms on the go in the shire at the moment, plus a number of gas-fired power stations," he said. "Something like over 50% of all windfarm applications are within the shire."

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong acknowledged that the fall in price for certificates partly reflected the higher uptake of solar water heaters as a result of state incentives and the federal stimulus package. Uncertainty over an emissions trading scheme was also putting downward pressure on the price. He said a joint federal-state review of the certificates was nearly finished. Australia's renewable energy target is to have 20% of power from renewable sources by 2020.