Senate debates

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Renewable Energy

3:49 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Australian Greens (Senator Milne) today relating to the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target.

Senator Milne's questions in the chamber today were important. They were about green jobs and green investment in this country. Unfortunately, Senator Cormann's responses were all about risk: sovereign risk and that which has been built in this country being put at risk in terms of what that has delivered in investment and jobs. We know that the renewable energy target is important. It gives businesses certainty. It gives the installers of household solar systems certainty, and it gives investors in large renewable energy projects in this country certainty. There has never been a clearer case of sovereign risk that I have seen than what the Liberal-National government are doing to the renewable energy sector in this country. It is fine if you want to put the renewable energy target up for review. But when you do put it up for review, I think that review is going to say that if you abolish the renewable energy target—and Senator Cormann would not go on record today to say whether he would abolish the renewable energy target or whether he would combine the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target with the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme—you will put at risk 6,750 photovoltaic jobs just in the area of installing solar panels and solar systems in this country.

It is estimated that 1,200 of those jobs are in Western Australia. You will also put at risk 700 megawatts of new electricity generation and 7,000 new construction jobs in this exciting sector by 2020. The review will also tell you, Senator Cormann, the benefits of the renewable energy target: wholesale prices of electricity reduced to $10 a megawatt hour. It will also tell you that it will add 14 gigawatts of clean energy to this country's future and create more than 30,000 jobs, reduce emissions and reduce reliance on expensive gas. More than a million households around the country now have gone down the path of reducing their power bills, reducing their electricity bills, by installing household PV, photovoltaics.

If it is left unchanged, I am very confident the review will show—if it is not a sham; if it is not run by people who have an agenda against the renewable energy industry in this country—an additional $18.7 billion in new investment in an exciting and innovative industry. It is one of the few we have in this country where we have had transition from old industries to industries that have technology where there is a lot of interest in investment, and which has broad community support. One million household solar panels across this country—that the Liberal-National government are going to have to do a lot of explaining about, if they start playing around with the incentives put in place by Senator Milne and the Greens, with support from Labor, to transition this country to a renewal energy future.

One exciting example of the type of project we would like to see more of is Carnegie Wave Energy in Western Australia. I know one senator on the other side—I won't break confidences—who is very excited about this project in his home state, and he happens to be a minister in this government. That type of project, partly funded by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, is reliant on incentives in the clean energy package. It is the sort of thing that Western Australia can point to and be very proud of—a local, home-grown innovative technology using the power of waves in our ocean. They are potentially untapped unlimited energy sources for the future that do not pollute the planet and do not put the future of our environment and our communities at risk.

So who is putting those at risk? It is Senator Cormann, by today refusing to provide the certainty that the renewable energy industry needs, by refusing to provide the certainty that the million household owners of photovoltaic energy in this country need and by refusing to provide the certainty and reduce the sovereign risk that big investors need to invest in renewable energy in this country.

Question agreed to.