News | 7th Apr, 2011

ALP energy targets a ‘gimmick’

Thursday, 7 April 2011
Josh Gordon, The Age

The Baillieu government appears to have dumped Victoria's renewable energy targets after a scathing audit report found the proportion of the state's power generated using solar, wind and hydro had barely increased over the past decade despite hundreds of millions of dollars of government spending.

In a potential blow for the sector, Energy and Resources Minister Michael O'Brien has labelled the renewable targets of the former Labor government an ''expensive gimmick''.

''What expands renewable energy isn't writing a target down on a piece of paper, it's having a policy framework that actually encourages renewables to be created,'' Mr O'Brien said. ''We are not interested in setting targets for the sake of it, because Labor's approach has shown it doesn't work,'' he said.

The audit report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, said just 3.9 per cent of Victoria's power is being generated using renewables. That is only 0.3 of a percentage point more than in 2002, when Labor first announced a target of 10 per cent to be achieved by 2010. Since then, there have been at least six policy launches and a bill to taxpayers of about $272 million.

''The volume of renewable energy presently generated falls well short of expectations and growth … is not on track to meet future targets,'' the report said. ''Efforts to increase the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources have proven not to be effective. Neither the setting of renewable energy targets, nor the establishment of investment incentives, has delivered expected results.''

One of the most recent renewable policy announcements came last year, when the previous Labor government committed to lifting the state's electricity supply from large-scale solar power to 5 per cent by 2020 and announced a so-called feed-in tariff offering subsidies to encourage solar.

During the campaign, the Coalition backed the 5 per cent target for solar and promised to ask the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission to consider a similar feed-in tariff.

But the report found such a tariff, approving premium prices to generators who feed renewable power into the grid, would add $23 to $47 to annual household power bills, well above the $5 to $15 increase claimed by Labor.

Shadow energy minister Lily D'Ambrosio said: ''From taking Victoria backwards on wind farm developments to cuddling up to brown coal interests, it's clear Mr Baillieu has no plans to tackle climate change.''

Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakenham said it was disappointing the share of renewable energy for power generation had not increased over the past decade, warning that Victoria was also burning 10 per cent more coal.

''Wind energy has been a great success story in Victoria, producing clean, affordable electricity. But now that industry is at risk because of the Baillieu government's restrictive wind farm development policy.


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