Thursday, 28 January 2010

Coalition, Greens talk alternative power

Wednesday 27/1/2010 Page: 5

Kevin Rudd could be forced to redraft renewable energy targets, because the Australian Greens and the Coalition are considering joining forces to boost incentives for commercial development of alternative power sources. The Greens climate change spokeswoman, Christine Milne, will announce today plans for a private member's bill to prevent the government from counting solar hot water systems and solar cells on roofs in accounting for its target of 20% renewable energy use by 2020.

Senator Milne will argue that the accounting system has stymied the development of commercial-scale renewable energy projects, leading to a collapse in the price of renewable energy certificates and undermining potential for development of large-scale commercial alternative energy projects. Coalition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt backed the move, saying he was prepared to talk with the Greens because the development of alternative energy sources was crucial to addressing climate change.

The comments came as Tony Abbott began finalising his plan to reduce emissions using practical measures rather than a market based scheme such as Labor's proposed emissions trading scheme. They followed former government adviser Ross Garnaut who said the government must press on with a market based scheme. Late last year, the country's biggest renewable energy company, AGL Energy, said it would not invest in alternative energy forms until the government addressed a 50% collapse in the price of certificates issued to companies and households that produced renewable energy.

The Greens hope talks with the Coalition will find common ground. Senator Milne said under her bill, hot-water systems and solar cells would attract renewable energy certificates but would not count towards the 20% renewable energy target. "This would ensure that the technologies are supported, but do not crowd out large-scale renewable energy," she said. "This is not the perfect policy, but it is an achievable way to fix this problem quickly."

Mr Hunt said the Coalition was keen to talk to the Greens but it could not make firm commitments. "We moved an amendment to ensure there was space for the solar, geothermal and tidal power projects within this target," he said. "Alternative energy industries are being stymied by pigheadedness." Professor Garnaut said yesterday he still favoured an ETS with a fixed price.