Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

7:46 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Tonight I would like to speak about South Australia's commitment to renewable energy, especially the use of wind power. Currently, South Australia has approximately 15 wind farms dotted across the state. South Australia's wind generation capacity is 1,151 megawatts, and this will be substantially increased by an additional thousand megawatts if the proposed wind energy projects on the books are given the go-ahead.

This shift to renewable energy in South Australia can be attributed to extremely strong support from the state Labor government in its quest for environmental sustainability and for the benefits to be reaped from greater investment in clean energy generation. South Australian Premier Mike Rann, a big supporter of clean energy generation, recently stated that there are over 530 operational turbines in South Australia. These signify investments worth billions of dollars, all from private investors, with the Clean Energy Council stating that the approximate total capital investment in South Australia is around $2.8 billion.

What has been quite astounding is that all of the turbines have been built through the leadership of the South Australian Labor government over the last nine years. It is not at all surprising that wind energy generation has contributed significantly to South Australia reaching its legislated target of 20 per cent renewable energy generation. The objective was reached in June this year, and I congratulate the state government on, firstly, setting that objective and, secondly, reaching it. However, the state Labor government is not resting on its laurels. It is going further, setting a target of 33 per cent renewable energy generation by 2020 as part of the state's strategic plan. This great effort so far by South Australia and the continued investment in the clean energy sector will assist the whole nation in reaching the target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.

Looking at the statistics in the Clean Energy Council's July snapshot, I am proud that South Australia, at 54 per cent, accounts for more than half of Australia's wind farm operating capacity. It is a significant achievement for a state that accounts for less than 10 per cent of the nation's population. Wind energy in South Australia accounts for around 3,223 direct and indirect jobs. These are all significant figures in renewable energy development. They have set a strong base for future progress, and we already have proven success in wind energy generation.

It is fantastic to note that South Australia is a leader in wind power generation. South Australia's leadership in wind power is providing economic benefits for regional South Australia, especially in my duty electorate of Grey, where many of these wind farms are being constructed. Continuing along this pathway, RenewablesSA has been established by the state government to support renewable energy objectives. RenewablesSA has been set up to provide high-quality information to potential investors that will seek to unlock thousands of megawatts of potential wind power in South Australia, specifically on the Eyre Peninsula.

The amount of carbon pollution avoided by this technology in South Australia is around 3.4 million tonnes of carbon. South Australia's success in wind energy has shown that moving to these cleaner sources of energy has limited the amount of carbon pollution emitted into our atmosphere. South Australia's ongoing commitment to wind farms has made it an attractive place for investment. It is fantastic to see that Suzlon Energy Australia has plans afoot to develop one of the largest wind farms in the world, near Ardrossan on the Yorke Peninsula, by 2015. The plan is to construct 180 turbines that could deliver energy to 225,000 homes in Adelaide through an undersea cable feeding electricity into the grid. The plan would see it invest $1.3 billion.

According to an ABC report on this matter on 31 August, the project is expected to create 500 construction jobs, with 50 ongoing employment opportunities. Importantly, landholders are very supportive of the Suzlon plans. As the ABC reported, landowner John McFarlane, who actually pitched the wind farm idea to the company after collecting wind data for eight years, has the support of 30 other local landowners. It is a very important initiative.

This announcement by Suzlon shows a continuing level of interest from investors due to the opportunities that wind generation have presented in South Australia. Even before the announcement by Suzlon Energy, the Clean Energy Council's July snapshot painted a rosy picture in presenting the proposed wind energy stats for South Australia. Currently, there are 14 proposed wind farms in South Australia, which could possibly result in another 648 turbines. The equivalent energy produced will be able to power more than 567,000 homes. This could see another 948 direct jobs created in South Australia. Nationally, the stats show that 90 wind farms are under consideration by planning authorities, possibly adding another 5,000 turbines to the 1,153 turbines operating at the moment.

It is no wonder that there is public support for wind farms and other forms of renewable energy, not only from the people who will gain directly from cleaner energy generation but from the wider public. A Newspoll survey conducted in May 2010 showed that 95 per cent of South Australians and around 90 per cent of all respondents in Australia think the nation should produce more renewable energy.

As I have said, South Australia is very supportive of renewable energy and a clean energy economy for our children and our children's children to enjoy, along with the job opportunities that this creates. I am proud that South Australia is doing more than its fair share so that all Australians can enjoy a cleaner energy future. In my home state the future is quite bright for the development of renewable energy. The introduction of a price on carbon will make this market more attractive for investors and energy companies. I am confident that renewable energy generation will continue to make great strides on the back of our proven record in South Australia over the last decade. But South Australia is not just a state for wind farms. Along with the rest of the country, South Australia has a strong focus on all forms of renewable energy, such as geothermal, solar and tidal energy that can be fed into the grid.

Australia's federal commitment to 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020 will lead to many more opportunities for states and investors to gain the benefit of greater clean energy generation. Federal government programs such as the $5.1 billion clean energy future initiative will provide great incentives in the development of this industry. I have great hope that the development of wind, solar energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy, bioenergy and biofuels will not only contribute on a social and environmental level but add great opportunities to our economy. These, I hope, will be the jobs that future generations will enjoy.

The Clean Energy Council, in its report Renewable energy jobs in 2009 and forecasts for 2020, projected that through the government's renewable energy target there could be as many as 30,000 employed in this industry by 2020. These opportunities are significant, and I believe that cleaner forms of energy have the support of the majority of Australians. I hope that during my time here as a senator for South Australia the development of wind energy and other forms of renewable energy will continue to head in the right direction, because I understand that the next generation of South Australians and Australians want a cleaner environment and want the opportunities of a clean energy economy.