Thursday, 18 July 2013

Abbott strangles $20bn green investment – to save 50c/week
3 Jun 2013

Two news stories over the weekend give a chilling insight into what might await the Australian renewable energy industry under a Federal Coalition government.

The first story was mostly symbolic in nature. The Newcastle Herald reported that the only wind turbine in Newcastle, the 600kW Kooragang turbine that was constructed in 1997 to "promote the emerging green energy market" is to be removed by Ausgrid-to make way for a new coal loader.

It is just a single turbine but, amazingly, apart from a small demonstration turbine at the CSIRO energy centre nearby, it is the only one in NSW north of Sydney. In fact, going north, you need to travel 2,000kms to the Atherton Tablelands before coming across another commercial wind turbine, 20 small towers amounting to 12MW at Windy Hill in the Atherton Tablelands. There are two other small turbines on Thursday Island, at the tip of the country and that is it-just 12.45MW of wind power north of Sydney, out of a total of 2,500MW across the country.

How many other turbines are built in NSW will likely be influenced by key decisions being made by NSW Cabinet as early as today about rules governing wind farm developments and the state's renewable energy plans. That, of course, and the fate of the large-scale renewable energy target-a federal decision.

The second story was not just one, but a barrage of media placements from Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and others seeking to lay the blame for the state's stunning 22.5% average rise in electricity costs in 2013/14 on green energy schemes, glossing over the fact that the overwhelming majority of the bill increases come because the cost of the billions of dollars of network upgrades is being borne by the consumer.

These are dangerous times for the renewables industry in Australia, particularly those looking to construct some $20 billion of utility-scale installations-be they wind or solar. Newman threw in large-scale renewables as part of the cause of rising prices, but the analysis by the Queensland Competition Authority shows that only 3.5% of the average customer bill of $1451 a year will go to support the renewable energy target, including the small and large-scale schemes. That's less than $1 a week for the average household.

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