Failing Energy Policy and Climate Change – Why can’t Australia get it right??
My take on this is that what we are seeing in Australia is a complete failure to implement good long term energy policy to support the development of the renewable energy industry (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) industries. Articles in Climate Spectator and elsewhere provide lots of examples of this. The RE industry is now firmly and blatantly under attack by the fossil fools lobby. In particular, removal of any carbon pollution scheme and the RE target are THEIR targets. The Clean Energy Council has been taken over – the new CEO is from the gas industry. He’s a former AGL manager and firmly supports CSG. As I read the situation, CSG is not the solution to climate change or pollution in general from fossil fuels – it just suits the profits of fossil fuel lobby, not the interests of humanity or other species.
In the early 2000s, large energy retailers like AGL and Origin moved into renewables when climate change policy was looking like a given and RE was seen as part of the solution. So they decided to be part of the action. As the climate debate began to fail due to the efforts of the deniers funded by fossil fools and other big polluters, support for RE has been eroded. The Murdoch press has done a fanastic job at attacking and presenting myths regarding RE all along the way.
At the same time, various States introduced policies to support RE under Labor governments but under a Howard Federal Government, which didn’t support RE much other than just before elections. So there was no consistency of policy or Federal Govt ownership and coordination, hence different policies and support mechanisms in different States. Now we have the reverse situation where the Labor Federal Govt is trying to progress RE and Climate Policy, under the influence of the Greens and Independents. But most States have changed to conservative governments and are swinging policy away from support for RE and back to their old mates in the Fossil Fools industry. They even plan, in conjunction with the mining industry, High Court action against the carbon tax,and now major control of the press.
The RE industry is caught in the middle in a series of swings in policies up and down. It has been for like this for years. This has several nasty impacts. It means fly-by-nighters step in while the going is good to make a quick buck, do dodgy work and give the industry a bad name. Meanwhile, the genuine companies can’t easily do long term planning as their sales gyrate up and down with the coming and going of Governments and policy. And while some parts of the RE industry have done ok, E.g. wind farms in some States, solar water heating and roof-top solar PV, their growth rate is still in fits and starts driven by poor, short-term policy.
And there may be some big bumps ahead for solar PV especially. This is because best practice was not encouraged by government policy up front and we are starting to see early failures of some system components, far earlier than we historically saw with solar PV, pre-grid connected systems. This includes failure and fires in PV arrays and isolators. Very few fires to date but we need to start carefully checking annually many systems – but which ones? These failures can be due either to poor quality products, which should have been screened out of the market, occasional faulty equipment (happens with all products), poor installation practices or some combination of these factors. I just witnessed a rushed job on a house across the street from me. It was Friday arvo with the Federal Govt’s rebate reducing on 1 July so lots of work to do. So the installers mounted the PV array in the wrong place, at an extreme tilt angle of 50 degrees (suitable for Hobart, not Brisbane), using the existing rusty roof screws to fasten it to the roof.
To add to this, the RE industry has naiively got into bed with the fossil fuel industry, the gas industry in particular, as witnessed by the almalgamation of the the Business Council for Sustainable Energy with the Gas industry to form the Clean Energy Council. In my view, the gas industry is greenwash and to include them in the CEC was a fundamental flaw. Hence the CEC has been a poor advocate for the RE industry as its commitment to gas is likely to get priority. As a result, the Australian Solar Energy Society has, to a large extent, had to take over from the CEC policy work on behalf of renewables.
Meanwhile, as both RE and EE struggle with on/off policy, the MATURE fossil fuel industry is subsidized to the hilt by taxpayers, $12 billion annually from the Feds and as my recent report, “Review of Energy Policy in Queensland”, revealed, $1.4 billion per year in Queensland with no end in sight. As well I estimated external costs to Queensland from current coal-fired generation of $6 billion annually. Email me for a copy at tberrill or download from www.solarsustainablehomes.com.au
Finally, in Queensland, we now have a “slash and burn” LNP government who AXED $270 million of worthwhile carbon reduction schems in the first week just as these schemes were starting to work for us to decarbonise the State’s electricity system as my report showed. The road ahead for the RE industry in Australia is still looking very rocky indeed. I hope I am wrong.
Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant & Educator
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