House debates

Monday, 2 May 2016


Renew Australia Bill 2016; Second Reading

11:16 am

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I rise to introduce the Renew Australia Bill 2016. The bill establishes Renew Australia, an authority to plan and drive the transition to a new clean energy system.

We are in the middle of a climate emergency. The recent widespread bleaching of our Great Barrier Reef is only the most recent manifestation and the beginning of the catastrophic effects that our pollution is causing. The security of our nation is at threat, and our way of life needs to be protected. We need to act and we need to act urgently.

But the good news is that approaching the enormous challenge of climate change is also an opportunity to remake our economy and ensure our future prosperity. By powering the new economy with clean energy, we will make a new future where economic growth is decoupled from pollution.

The Greens have a plan to renew Australia by powering the new economy with clean energy. Our plan will ensure energy generation for electricity is at least 90 per cent renewable by 2030 and that our energy productivity is doubled. We will establish a $500 million government authority, Renew Australia, tasked with planning and driving the transition to a new clean energy system and to leverage $5 billion of construction in new energy generation over the next four years. We will create a $250 million clean energy transition fund to assist coal workers and communities to transition, with the total amount spent rising to $1 billion over the decade.

We will implement pollution intensity standards to enable the gradual staged closure of coal-fired power stations, starting with Australia's dirtiest, Hazelwood. This is critical. We have to get off coal and onto renewables if we are to have any chance of meeting the challenge that climate change has laid down to us. But as we do so we need to ensure that no-one is left behind, that the workers in those coal-fired power stations and their communities are looked after and that supply is continued so that the lights stay on as we make this transition.

Our plan aims to electrify transport and industry, including new industries that want to access cheap and clean energy. As a result of that, even with a doubling of energy efficiency, energy production for electricity in Australia actually needs to increase by about 50 per cent by 2030. So the Green's plan is to grow the amount of electricity that we produce in this country but to make it clean and green. To do that, we are going to need all shoulders to the wheel. The future of the energy market is going to continue to be a mix of private, public and community infrastructure.

Central to the implementation of our plan will be Renew Australia, the authority that this bill would establish. Government needs to grab this issue by the scruff of the neck. Government needs to be the midwife of our clean energy society. Renew Australia will drive Australia's transformation into a clean energy powerhouse and will utilise a combination of mechanisms, including driving down costs and creating a highly skilled clean energy workforce through a staged pipeline of construction projects over the next 15 years. This will be the Snowy Hydro for the 21st century, accessing capital raised by the Commonwealth's publicly owned and operated clean energy assets and contracting with clean energy companies to build these renewable energy power plants.

Renew Australia would also run reverse auctions for the construction of lowest cost clean energy assets, with a preference awarded towards community owned energy projects and those projects that commit to buying their materials and employing people locally. There is 20 tonnes of steel in a wind turbine. If we can make that Australian steel, we should. Renew Australia would encourage workers to purchase energy infrastructure through superannuation funds, which hold billions of dollars available to be invested in nationally significant infrastructure.

The bill that I am introducing today will establish Renew Australia and put in place the legal machinery to enable it to do this important work. I will turn now to the important elements of this bill in detail. Part 1 of the bill sets out the starting date for the bill, its objects and number of other related details. The objects of the bill are: to help reduce Australia's greenhouse gas pollution by transforming Australia's electricity system; to create a new statutory authority to oversee the transformation; to achieve new energy objectives to ensure a transition plan for affected communities; and to ensure that the closure of coal-fired power stations happens in a planned manner.

Part 2 of the bill establishes Renew Australia as an authority and outlines its functions. The general functions of Renew Australia are set out, including law reform, advice, renewable energy projects, support to affected communities and workers and other functions that are conferred to it. Clause 11 outlines some of those functions, and it is worth examining them closely. Clause 11(1) lists Renew Australia's law reform functions:

(a)   to review Commonwealth, State and Territory laws relating to electricity generation and propose changes to those laws for the purpose of achieving the new energy objectives; and

(b)   to consult with Commonwealth, State and Territory governments about the proposed changes; and

(c)   after consulting as mentioned in paragraph (b), to recommend to the Minister changes to Commonwealth laws for the purpose of achieving the new energy objectives; and

(d)   to publish the results of reviews mentioned in paragraph (a), and the changes recommended under paragraph (c), on its website.

One of the first tasks of Renew Australia will be to review our national energy laws and come up with draft legislation to explain how we will make this transition and reform the national energy market, which is in dire need of change.

Clause 11(2) lists new energy objectives for Renew Australia—and, indeed, for the country—which will drive the decisions of the authority. The new energy objectives, which will be enshrined in legislation, are to:

(a)   to achieve a transition in generating electricity in Australia, so that by 2030:

(i)   90% of electricity generated in Australia is derived from renewable energy sources; and

(ii)   electricity generation capacity in Australia is increased to 358 TWh …

(b)   to phase out the generation of electricity in Australia from fossil fuels;

(c)   to maintain supply of electricity in Australia while the transition mentioned in paragraph (a) is achieved;

(d)   to lower energy costs to households and businesses, including by enabling them to become generators of electricity from renewable energy sources;

(e)   to make Australia a destination of choice for industry seeking reliable and clean energy;

(f)   to have a national electricity grid that is suited to the transition mentioned in paragraph (a) and to which generators of electricity from renewable energy sources have a right to connect.

That last one, like many of the others, is vital. People should know that when they generate renewable electricity, whether it is on their rooftop or whether they are building a new wind farm or solar plant somewhere, they will be connected to the grid.

The bill goes on to outline Renew Australia's responsibilities to layout a timetable for the planned closure of coal fired power stations and for principles of investment in the new national electricity grid. Importantly, in clause 11, Renew Australia is to develop laws that will proceed by complementary legislation between the state and the Commonwealth, but, if the states are not going to come to the party, then the Commonwealth needs to act alone. The Commonwealth needs to step in to ensure that our pollution in this country is reduced, as we switch over from coal to wind and solar. If the states do not want to be party to it, the Commonwealth needs to lead the way. It will also be clear—and this is set out in clause 13—that Renew Australia has the capacity to build, finance, own or operate renewable energy projects and also to run reverse auctions for new private sector renewable energy projects. Renew Australia must take action that is in the public interest.

Parts 3 and 4 set out the powers, privileges and immunities for the Renew Australia board, chief officer and other machinery relating to it. Part 5 sets out that parliament may appropriate money for Renew Australia and the finance minister may give them directions. Finally, Part 6 outlines matters in relation to the legal delegations and the power for the minister to make rules.

Tackling global warming needs real leadership. In the face of the climate challenge, the rest of the world is moving rapidly to transform their economies and we cannot be left behind. On 25 July last year, Germany produced 78 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy. Why is cloudy Germany leading the way, when Australia is blessed with a high level of manufacturing capacity, very smart people with intellectual resources and more wind and solar than almost any other country in the world? We should be world leaders; we should be the new energy superpower; we should not be leaving it up to other countries to grab the benefits that are going to come in the 21st century to those countries which produce clean, green renewable energy.

Our hope it is that Australia becomes a destination of choice for industry around the world, which is looking for a place to come to for cheap and plentiful power supply that is produced cleanly. Let us be the place in the region where you come to run your business if you want to know that your business is being run on secure renewable energy. We want to increase the amount of electricity that is produced in this country, as we start getting transport—cars, buses, trains—off fossil fuels onto electricity. The jobs that will flow from this are manifold. The German experience suggests to us that there is somewhere in the order of 100,000 jobs available in renewable energy. The Greens want to seize that opportunity for Australia and make Australia a new energy superpower. This bill will go a long way towards doing that.

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Denison, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the bill and reserve my right to speak.

Debate adjourned.