House debates

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015; Second Reading

7:51 pm

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015. The legislative amendments to the RET restore some of the balance in the RET scheme. I will make some comments on the member for Makin's contribution to this debate. We should get a few things clear here. The uncertainty in the renewable energy sector has been caused by the reluctance of the Labor Party from 2013 up until now to be involved in negotiations. As the member for Makin leaves the House, I will remind him of his 2008 contribution to the debate on the ill-fated emissions trading scheme, where he said in this place that, if we did not pass Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme, the heatwave in Adelaide would never come to an end.

This bill is a victory for common sense. It overcomes some of the ideological mumbo jumbo that we see come out of this place and puts some certainty into the RET. Without this bill, the RET would revert to its default position, which would mean that the whole RET would be in jeopardy and the cost of electricity would go through the roof. So I do support this legislation.

My colleague the member for Hinkler made a very measured and well-resourced contribution to this debate tonight. This bill is about altering the RET; it is not about whether we have one or not. I want to make it clear to people listening to me tonight that I am supporting this bill because it brings the RET back to a more achievable level. Not to support this legislation would see the RET go to the default position, which would be disastrous.

The Parkes electorate is quite a leader in renewable energy, with solar farms at Nyngan, Moree and Lake Cargelligo. All three different styles will play an important role in filling in some of the gaps in electricity transmission in New South Wales. Their location away from the generators in areas of high levels of sun make them ideally placed to play that role.

It is important in this renewable energy debate that we respond in a practical and measured way. The ideological drive by the Left needs to be called for what it is. Our electricity consumption is dropping not because we have become superefficient; it is because we are turning off and using less. Unfortunately, many of the people making that sacrifice are the ones who can least afford to do so—the elderly and small business. This bill brings some certainty into the RET, and it will have a twofold effect. It will have a target that is achievable and it will also put some certainty into investment so that those projects that are in the pipeline, those that have had a significant amount of investment, those that are waiting for approval, will now have the certainty to go ahead.

The solar farm at Moree is the most recent one in the Parkes electorate. It is an ideal location for a solar farm, in an area of flat ground, supported by a large community. If renewable energy is going to mature, we need projects like this one. Renewable energy, whether it be wind or solar, is probably in its early stages of development. If we are going to get to a more efficient level of generation from the sun and wind, we have to put up some large-scale plants so that engineers get experience in constructing them and, as time goes by, we will become more efficient.

I understand that the Holy Grail of the alternative energy industry will be a battery that can store electricity in an economical and efficient manner. In places like Silicon Valley in the United States, billions of dollars is going into such a development, so solar and wind will be complete alternatives rather than, as they are at the moment, additives to our energy generation. As the member for Hinkler rightly pointed out in his contribution, we are still reliant on fossil fuel power generation, which we need at peak times and at times when either the wind does not blow or when the sun is not up. The member for Makin, whose home state of South Australia has the largest reliance on wind, will know that in the recent past that state has had a large number of problems because of its complete reliance on wind without having an adequate mix of other forms of technology.

The Nyngan solar farm will certainly be the largest solar farm in Australia, and the construction of that is pretty well completed. It has been a wonderful project for the Nyngan community. There are projects like the Bodangora wind farm, near Wellington, which is in a relatively isolated area and, I believe, there is now the opportunity for that project to go ahead. It will more than likely happen. With the wind farms, it is important that the needs of close neighbours are taken into account, and that they are placed where they can get maximum draw-down on the wind, but do not cause problems for nearby neighbours.

While we have the minister and the shadow minister in the chamber now, I would like to commend them both for coming to an agreement on this. The statements made by previous speakers in here from the Labor Party, blaming the uncertainty in the industry on the coalition government, are certainly incorrect. That uncertainty will now be behind us and we can get on with the job at hand. I commend the bill to the House.


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