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representatives vote 2015-06-02#1

Edited by mackay

on 2016-03-24 16:05:11

Title

  • Bills — Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015; Second Reading
  • Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015 - Second Reading - Ask the question

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Andrew Broad</p>
  • <p>I wish to talk about the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015, and reflect on the journey that has brought us to this point, and on the way forward. The journey so far was all about how we, as a nation, create a mechanism to encourage renewable energy in our midst. Renewable energy does inspire the hearts of people. As Australians, we aspire to have an energy mix made up of fossil fuels, but also, increasingly, of renewable energy in an affordable and sustainable fashion.</p>
  • <p>Not long ago, one of the prime ministers of Australia talked about climate change being the greatest moral challenge of our time. There were those who saw that as disingenuous. But in a big fever to move towards renewable energy, we realised what happens if you develop policy in isolation of industry or policy in isolation of the cost that it puts on people. In the great moral crisis of our time, we saw a carbon tax introduced into Australia. Effectively, what that did was take away what is our competitive advantage.</p>
  • The majority voted in favour of a [motion](http://www.openaustralia.org.au/debate/?id=2015-06-02.102.4) to put the question, meaning that the discussion about the [bill](http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id:legislation/billhome/r5463) will now end and the House will now vote on whether they agree with the main idea of the bill (that is, whether to [give the bill a second reading](http://www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/making-a-law.html)).
  • ### Main idea of the bill
  • The bill amends the [Commonwealth Renewable Energy Target](http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1314/QG/RenewableEnergy) (RET) scheme by, for example, reducing the [large-scale renewable energy target](http://www.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/RET/About-the-Renewable-Energy-Target/How-the-scheme-works/Large-scale-Renewable-Energy-Target) (LRET) and replacing the requirement for two-yearly reviews of the operation of the RET scheme with annual statements by the [Clean Energy Regulator](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Energy_Regulator) (CER). Further detail is available in the [bills digest](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1415a/15bd119).
  • #### *What happened next?*
  • [When the question was put](http://www.openaustralia.org.au/debate/?id=2015-06-02.104.1), all Members of Parliament (MPs) except Mr [Bob Katter](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/kennedy/bob_katter) and Mr [Andrew Wilkie](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/denison/andrew_wilkie) agreed to the bill's main idea.
  • <p>Our competitive advantage as a country has always been cheap electricity. We do not have the benefit of having cheap wages, or we might say we are the recipient of higher wages. That, of course, has created a standard of living that we, as Australians, enjoy. When people go to work they expect to be well paid, and they should be well paid. But what has helped us when we have produced goods is that our energy costs have been reasonably cheap. We compete with countries that have more expensive energy but have cheaper wages. But at least having cheap electricity has been our competitive advantage.</p>
  • <p>The challenge is that the carbon tax and then the Renewable Energy Target have actually put power prices up. The outworking of that is that we have seen industry shift offshore. Our government made a commitment that we would repeal the carbon tax. That is what we have done, and we are now moving forward on discussing how we ensure that we keep our competitive advantage as well as continue to encourage diversity in our energy generation mix.</p>
  • <p>One of the great testimonies of the Australian people has been the changed behaviour that we have seen within energy use. The projections of what amount of renewable energy we thought we would need have been put out and skewed simply because we have changed behaviour. I do not need to tell the schoolkids who are no doubt looking on up in the gallery that they now turn the light off instead of having lights just blazing away all day and that we now think about how we minimise our impact on the environment. I think that is something that we should be proud of as the Australian people, and some of the leadership of that has come from our younger Australians.</p>
  • <p>But in changing behaviour we have found that we have not needed as much generation capacity within our mix as we anticipated. The challenge we have at the moment is that we originally had a renewable energy target of 41,000 gigawatt hours, which was scoped to be quite a large percentage. But we did not need that much because we simply have changed behaviour. We have also moved some industry offshore. That changed behaviour has meant that we now need to make some changes and some adoptions to our renewable energy target. It is not to diminish the role of the target, but it does give an example of where we do not need as much in the mix as we originally thought. So this amendment bill is to move the target from 41,000 gigawatt hours to 33,000 gigawatt hours, still a very ambitious target to hit within the time frame and still very conscious of the government's role in creating a diversified energy mix.</p>
  • <p>The other thing that has happened is panels have got cheaper in solar and the technology has got better. I fear that as we have developed the renewable energy target over successive governments we have perhaps missed the opportunity to better enhance utilisation of our fossil fuels instead of demonising them. If we can burn coal hotter and create less emissions per unit of output of power, that is also a way of reducing our impact on the planet.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Alannah Mactiernan</p>
  • <p>But it is very minimal.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Andrew Broad</p>
  • <p>We can, and I think this does need to be explored because, whilst we have been the beneficiaries of fossil fuel, whilst we have been the beneficiaries of lifting our standards of living out of fossil fuel, the great challenge for Africa is how they lift their standard of living in a continent where they have large amounts of fossil fuel. If we had used part of our renewable energy target to develop cleaner coal, we would have a technology that could be replicated in a part of the world that is going to have to focus on fossil fuels for many years to come if they are going to lift their standard of living. It is disingenuous for us, as a rich country, to tell a poor country what they can and cannot do on their emissions.</p>
  • <p>But, be that as it may, reducing power has come at a cost, and yet we have also seen that the price of power has not diminished as much, because of the investment in the distribution networks right across Australia&#8212;the poles and wires. Some of this is an outworking of the royal commission after the Black Saturday fires, certainly in Victoria. My concern with the renewable energy target is: are we favouring one part of our economy over another? I have this double edged sword within my electorate where I have a lot of dairy farmers, a lot of irrigators and a lot of horticultural producers who are using electricity driven pumps.</p>
  • <p>A renewable energy target is, in fact, in a small way, driving up the price of their business, driving up their costs of doing business, and so, in some regards, we are working against those particular parts of our economy. If you are a dairy farmer in Victoria, most of your milk is usually exported as dehydrated milk. They are an energy intensive and somewhat trade exposed industry, but they are not currently exempt from the impacts of the renewable energy target. My argument is that we should be excluding our food producers and our food processors in the export industry from the impacts of a renewable energy target.</p>
  • <p>Finding the balanced solution is also an issue when it comes to the communities that I represent. I think, overwhelmingly, they do favour solar. They do like solar, and my fear is that this bill still leans towards wind generation. Wind generation has had a pretty fair run, in my opinion. But solar probably has not, and what has happened is that the price of solar panels has got cheaper. The ability of a community to work together so that they can collectively have a solar farm needs to be enhanced in legislation. It is currently not there.</p>
  • <p>The other thing that is a conflict in my area is the impact both on health and on aspect&#8212;of looking at wind turbines. I know that, when I talk to people in the southern parts of my electorate, they are very concerned about the new changes in planning from the Victorian state government which limit their opportunity to have a say when a wind farm is going to be put in their area. The flip side, of course, in all of these conflicting areas, is that our local councils, who obviously do not have large amounts of rate bases, are attracted to the earning capacity of wind farms. So we have an interesting paradox where some parts of my electorate are very much the recipients of a renewable energy target, some parts of my electorate are very much the losers of a renewable energy target and some parts of my electorate are exposed to the risks of power prices increasing.</p>
  • <p>I think we do need to review, with a balanced solution&#8212;and this is what this attempts to do. I think we also need to understand, and we need to move towards some renewal. I think it is just not fair if those who have an objection to a wind farm do not have an opportunity to have their objection heard. It is not fair if those who are impacted in their daily lives and in their activities are not able to be heard as to how we move forward.</p>
  • <p>My great dream is around solar, and I will share where I want to go with this. Currently, a person can put solar panels on their roofs and they will pay $8,000. If you have a look at solar panels on roofs, whilst they are reasonably effective at reducing the power for the person who has them on their roof, they are very hard to manage into a grid. If you were to get around 100 people who also wanted to commit $8,000 and wanted to collectively put together a bid to build an $800,000 solar farm on the outskirts of some of my regional towns, which are very sunny, I think that is something we should be more open to when thinking through this legislation.</p>
  • <p>Currently, the renewable energy target system favours solar panels on roofs but does not favour the same solar panels on a paddock right next door to a town. Something about my community that I have been very proud of is that people do have a sense of working together. We do have land that is reasonably cheap. If you look at any studies about how to manage a grid and how to maintain a mix of solar panels, it is much easier to do it from a maintenance perspective when they are on a paddock because you do not have to climb on the roof. But also you have a bulk of power that can be managed into the whole grid. Ultimately, that needs to be looked at when we talk about renewable energy.</p>
  • <p>It really should come down to practicality, not ideology. This legislation is trying to recognise that we ran the risk in the current legislation, as it stood, of putting prices up through the roof by hitting penalty rates. There were time frame restraints on how to build the amount of renewable energy at a time when behaviour has changed. One thing that we must do is to commend the Australian people for changing their behaviour. They have learnt to use less electricity. They have learnt to insulate their houses better and to turn lights off. But it is also important that we work with industry so that we do not put ourselves at a significant disadvantage when it comes to producing the goods that we produce and to grasping our competitive advantage&#8212;that being cheap electricity&#8212;as we move towards being good global citizens.</p>
  • <p>The contrast in my electorate, as I say, is a discussion between the wind farm generators and the irrigators and the dairy farmers who also have their milk processed. It is a discussion around those who have to live with a view to wind farms and the concerns they might have around their health, and it is a discussion around how we can look at solar panels collectively, as communities, rather than just have them on our roofs. The legislation does not embrace everything I would like, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. The challenge for us is how we, as a country, continue to grow the standard of living we want and ensure that the environment is also looked after. The other thing we must also think of is how we develop technology that can be taken up in developing countries so that they can also lift their standard of living without having adverse effects on the planet.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>