It’s not broken so don’t break it

13 September 2012

The large scale renewable energy target, LRET, is the primary market based policy to incentivise the deployment of large-scale renewable energy in Australia. History demonstrates that success breeds contempt from others as, since its inception in 2001, fossil fuel interests have constantly tried to hold back renewables fearing they will threaten the status quo.

And these vested interests have every reason to be concerned; renewable energy is not only popular in Australia, it is working.
Since 2001, there has been significant investment in renewable energy across the country. South Australia has become the shining light, demonstrating what is possible. Around 25% or more wind energy capacity is installed in their state and their energy mix has changed substantially as a result.

The results are compelling.

With such a large amount of renewable energy in the mix, emissions have decreased in South Australia, and two coal fired power stations have been switched off – yes, off – only generating when the market operator, AEMO, calls on them to do so. Significantly, South Australia now also exports its power at times as well – unheard of four or five years ago when it used to import around 15%.

While the vested interests say that all this renewable energy is costing money, they fail to not only mention the billions invested in regional economies and thousands of jobs that these projects create, they ignore that emission reductions are evident in South Australia. A result that will start to play out in other states as more renewable energy comes online. And importantly in the current debate around rising energy bills, renewable energy is pushing wholesale energy prices down.

Also missing in the debate is the critical issue of health impacts associated with fossil fuel energy generation.

A recent report released by The Climate Institute explains that thousands of lives could be saved from shifting to cleaner energy generation. And that coal-fired power generation in Australia costs $2.6 billion annually from associated respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases. Failing to clean up our energy generation will likely see these figures rise.

The LRET is changing our energy mix. It is doing exactly what it was designed to do – set Australia up for cleaner energy systems for the 21st Century. This is what Australians want and what we need if we are to protect the community from rising oil, gas and coal prices, transition away from emissions intensive energy generation, and reduce our health costs. Australians already understand the cost benefit equation which is demonstrated by the large numbers of people who have had solar units installed on their rooves.

Despite the constant tinkering with energy policy, renewable energy continues to move ever closer to becoming mainstream in Australia as it already is in many other parts of the world. Giving in to vested interests by constantly changing the goal posts not only creates a headache for investing in long-term infrastructure, it creates a boom and bust scenario which will end up costing the community more in the long-run.

Australia is famous for the tall poppy syndrome. But this policy should be left to bloom.


Pacific Hydro’s submission to the Review of the Renewable Energy Target is available here


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