Monday, 24 August 2020
Private Members' Business
That this House:
(1) recognises that:
(a) in the 19th century it was regional Australia that led the transition from gas to electricity and that in the 21st century it is again regional Australia that is leading Australia's transition to renewable energy; and
(b) according to the Australian Energy Market Operator's Integrated System Plan, around 15 gigawatts of coal-fired power will retire over the next 20 years;
(2) recalls the analysis from the leaked report of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission Manufacturing Taskforce indicated that renewables plus storage are the lowest cost form of new electricity generation, and therefore a lowest-cost energy transition will be based on significant investment in renewables;
(3) welcomes the recent comments from the International Energy Agency that 'governments have the opportunity to accelerate renewables deployment by making investment in renewables a key part of stimulus packages designed to reinvigorate their economies. This offers the prospect of harnessing the structural benefits that increasingly affordable renewables can bring, including opportunities for creating jobs and economic development, while reducing emissions and fostering innovation';
(4) notes analysis by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that projects that up to $1,000 billion will be spent on Australia's electricity system until 2050 and that local communities should benefit from this investment boom;
(5) acknowledges that 'community energy', which is where a renewable energy project is developed by, owned by or delivers benefit to local communities, offers a compelling model for capturing the immense benefits of renewable energy, including jobs and investment, for local communities in regional Australia;
(6) further welcomes the findings of Sustainability Victoria into the Victorian Community Power Hub pilot program which found that Government investment into community energy of $1.16 million created 15 projects delivering economic benefits worth $25.6 million; and
(7) calls on the Government to support the development of community-owned renewable energy projects across regional Australia through:
(a) direct financial support for regional communities in the form of grants and concessional loans;
(b) technical support for local communities to develop renewable energy projects based on the Community Power Hub model successfully deployed in Victoria; and
(c) a dedicated national community energy agency to enable capacity-building across the regional community energy network and to administer financial and technical support over the medium-term.
Australia's future is renewable, and renewables will be built almost entirely in regional Australia. These are not political statements; they're the sober findings of the engineers at the Australian Energy Market Operator who have mapped out a technical blueprint, the Integrated Systems Plan, for Australia's electricity needs over the next 20 years. Their plan shows that in that time frame over 60 per cent of our coal fleet will reach the end of its life—it will retire, it will break down, it will be gone. And, because renewables, even when you add the cost of storage, are cheaper than fossil fuels, these coal stations will be replaced by solar and wind. In fact, by 2040 they estimate that over 80 per cent of our electricity capacity will be renewable. They've mapped out where those new renewable power stations will get built—the locations in the grid with the best resources and the best grid connections—and these new renewable energy zones stretch right across regional Australia. We're building a network of interconnected renewable power stations stretching in a sunbelt from Esperance in the west to Carpentaria in the north and everywhere in between. This means big investment.
In recent months, we've seen a $3 billion proposal for a wind farm and battery near Burra in South Australia, a $20 billion farm in the Northern Territory that would export energy to Singapore and $38 billion worth of private investment in a slew of projects around Dubbo. This investment in regional Australia is already starting to happen and, as we look for ways we can rebuild our regional economy from the crisis that we're now in, harnessing this 21st century gold rush for the benefit of everyday people is one of our greatest opportunities. It's right here, right now, and it is before us if we grasp it.
We need to make sure that everyday people actually benefit from the boom because those power stations will be selling electricity to the country and to the world. Who owns them and where that money goes matters, and Australia's experience with renewable energy so far underscores that new development does not inevitably benefit the local community. In the past, some developers frankly ignored some communities. As we look ahead to the next phase, we can't repeat those mistakes. We have to involve community.
The renewable boom is exciting but it should happen with locals not to locals. We should aspire not just to a renewable energy future but to a community energy future. Community energy is where everyday people develop, own or benefit from renewable energy. Right now, all across Australia, there are over 100 community groups doing just that. In Denmark, in Western Australia, the local community raised money to build their own wind farm, which not only provides local cheap power to the town but provides returns to the local investors, keeping money in the region instead of sending it off to some distant power company. In New England, in New South Wales, the Sapphire Wind Farm, which powers 115,000 homes, was built with $7.5 million of co-investment raised from the local people, who are now receiving dividends alongside the commercial developer. And in my patch, in Indi, Yea and Euroa are developing mini grids to enable low-cost power sharing in their towns. Beechworth and Yackandandah are developing community energies, community batteries. Wodonga is putting solar on the homes of low-income housing and the locals in Benalla will soon receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in community investment from a series of new solar farms. These examples, which are already happening, provide a model for how the benefits of renewables can best be captured for everyday Australians.
But it's at this critical moment, for our country, that we need a plan to ensure every regional community can partake in this boom. Over recent months I've been working with communities right across Australia on a plan to do just that, to ensure that renewable energy not only creates local jobs but sets us up for a generation of shared prosperity. On 23 September I will launch that plan. I'd like to invite all Australians who want to see renewable energy drive a new era of prosperity for regional Australia to join me. This multidecade wave of investment is just starting to break. Let's find a way to surf it. I commend this motion to the House.