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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26585

Senator TCHEN (6:08 PM) —I seek leave to incorporate my speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

In the weeks from 31 May to 13 June, 2004, I undertook a study tour of Germany, in the first stage to Bonn, Germany, to observe proceedings at the International Conference for Renewable Energies, hosted by the Federal Government of Germany held between 1 and 4 June, and to take part in the International Parliamentary Forum on Renewable Energies hosted by the German Bundestag held in parallel with the International Conference on 2 June.

At the International Conference, Australia was represented by an official delegation of officers from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (Mr Bruce Wilson, General Manager, Environment Branch, Delegation Leader), Australian Greenhouse Office (Dr Greg Terrill, Branch Head, International and Strategies Branch; Mr Denis Smedley, Manager, Renewable Energy Technologies Team), Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mr Peter Heyward, Assistant Secretary, Environment Branch; Mr Mike Byers, Executive Officer, Climate Change Section). I thank all these officers for the excellent advice and support they provided me during the course of the Conference and the Parliamentary Forum.

The Parliamentary Forum was chaired by Dr Herman Scheer, a Social Democrat (Government) member of the German Bundestag. Dr Scheer was assisted by Ms Michaele Hustedt, a member of the Green Party in the Bundestag. The programme of the Forum comprised six sessions: four plenary debate sessions and the opening and the closing sessions. The topics of the four plenary sessions were, in order: Parliamentary Initiatives in Industrialised Countries; parliamentary Initiatives in Developing Countries; Parliamentary Initiatives on North-South cooperation; and parliamentary Initiatives for International Institutions—Joint Promotion of Renewables. I chaired the fourth sessions, and took the opportunity to deliver a speech outlining Australia's approach to renewable energies and the considerable progress we have made. I thank Mr Denis Smedley of the AGO especially for his considerable assistance to me in preparing this speech.

The International Conference was well planned and managed by the Germany Federal Government, with generous support from the Governments of the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen and the City of Bonn, and the Germany renewable Energy industry.

The Parliamentary Forum was one of a number of “side events” of the International Conference, and was attended by some 200 members from various parliaments. Discussions covered a wide range of topics, not always as indicated by the programme. The level of passion and intensity many of the participants brought to the discussion often reached impressive heights, their contributions frequently interesting and from time to time informative, but regrettably in most instances to my observation more or less impractical.

I also took advantage of my stay in Bonn to meet with Mr Richard Kinley, deputy to the Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC), which is headquartered there. Mr Kinley kindly provided me with a briefing on the current status of Kyoto Protocol, especially with regard to the then widely reported news that Russia was on the verge of ratifying the Protocol. I understood that while Mr Kinley believed that Russia was closer to ratifying than previously, he did not expect any announcement of decision, if any, before October. I was also pleased to find that (1) Mr Kinley did not regard the coming into force of the Protocol as a necessary condition for further global collaboration toward reduction of greenhouse gas emission; and (2) the feverish assertions by Senator Brown and assorted environmental warriors that Australia had become international pariah for failing to ratify the Protocol were grossly exaggerated—Australia's efforts and achievements in greenhouse gas reduction were in fact well acknowledged. My meeting with Mr Kinley was arranged and facilitated by the Australian Embassy and DFAT. I thank Ms Alison Carrington of the Embassy and Mr Peter Heyward of the Delegation for their kind efforts.

Following the close of the International Conference, I joined a tour of the East Frisia region of Nordrhein-Westfalen State, described as a “wind energy region” with nearly 900 operative wind turbines, representing over 700 MW of installed generating power, outputting 1.2 MKWh in 2003 which was 54% of the total load. The 2-day tour was hosted by Ostfriesland Regional Council and the Council of the City of Aurich. Their hospitality, as well as the natural beauty of their countryside—even with the sight of the forest of wind turbine towers across the horizon—was gratefully appreciated.

The tour included attendance at the commissioning of the third E-112, 4.5 MW, of ENERCON. The designation 112 referred to the diameter of the rotor, in metres. ENERCON is Germany's leading wind turbine manufacturer, its main plant in Emden is East Frisia region's second largest industry—Volkswagen is the largest. ENERCON was a major sponsor of the East Frisia tour.

I understand that the proliferation of wind turbines in Germany generally was made possible by an energy tax regime which heavily subsidised renewable electricity generation; and in East Frisia in particular because it gave the farm owners there the opportunity to gain a source of steady supplementary income which made their farms economically viable. However, in recent years both of these factors have come under challenge—the cost of the subsidies has led to demand for reform which is now in process; at the same time environmental activists have become increasing vocal in opposition to wind turbines—which, ironically, are promoted heavily by the German Greens in government in coalition with the SPD.

In the second part of my study tour I visited Berlin, and met with officials of the German Environment Ministry—Dr Patrick Graichen (International Cooperation, Conventions and Climate Change); Mr Kai Schlegelmilch (Implementation of Germany's Climate National Protection Program); Mr Uwe Busgen (International and EU Renewables Policy)—and received briefing on Germany's renewable policy and general approach to environmental management. Of interest was the information that wind power was not regarded as a major player of future development of energy sources.

I also met with a number of German experts on immigration law, multiculturalism and citizenship issues. These included: Dr Steffen Angenendt, Senior Research Fellow, Research Institute of the German Council on Foreign Relations; Ms Malti Taneja, Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration; Mr Till-Olive Rothfuss, a senior SPD parliamentary advisor on immigration.

As a summary of these discussions, I have incorporated below a short abstract of an article on immigration reform in Germany co-authored by Dr Steffen Angenendt.

“Immigration has long been one of the most hotly debated domestic political issues in Germany and in Europe at large. After many years without substantial action in this policy field, the Red-Green government which came to power in 1998 introduced two new laws, an American-style Green Card and a new citizenship law. From these beginnings the immigration reform campaign captured the public imagination and for two years a broad spectrum of figures from German life including a panel of experts summoned by the government took part in a lively debate on the issue. A law was eventually adopted by parliament and promulgated in spring 2002, but—in the wake of a voting scandal in the Bundesrat—it was struck down by the Constitution Court weeks before its scheduled entry into force. This paper recounts the story of the now defunct immigration law and seeks to shed valuable light on German politics by asking three fundamental questions: What were the main differences the political parties were unable to affect a compromise? Why have the political forces failed to turn virtually universal agreement on the need for immigration reform into an effective law? And what does the failure say about the functioning of Germany's democracy?”

Senators wishing to read the full text of Dr Angenendt's research report should please contact me.

I am extremely grateful to Ms Allison Carrington of the Australian Embassy in Berlin for her kind assistance in arranging and for accompanying me to these very informative meetings. I also thank Ms Miriam Kueller, senior research and project officer at the Embassy for the onerous task of interpreting for me at these meetings, a task she performed very efficiently. My special thank is due to Ms Pamela Fayle, Australian Ambassador in Germany, for her kindness of not only making her staff available for assistance, but also taking time from her busy schedule to brief me on current German political situation.

Finally, I thank Synergi Travel and Qantas for their efficient and friendly service.


Chair's Introductory Speech to Session IV—Global Renewable Energy Actions and Institutions—Bonn 2 June 2004

Australia's Renewable Energy Approach

I am delighted to have the privilege of chairing this session and opening the discussion regarding the promotion of renewables. I thank Dr Herman Scheer, the Forum Chair, for inviting me to take this role.

I would like to take this opportunity to talk about what Australia has developed in terms of renewable energy, especially in the context of climate change measures.

Domestic Action—Key Policies and Programs

Australia recognises the importance and the potential of renewable energy in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the sustainability of energy supply.

For 2004-5, the Australia Government has budgeted more than A$2 billion to fund a range of climate change measures across the economy, including the energy, transport and agricultural sectors, in a whole of government effort—including A$280 million through overseas aid.

Australia is making careful, targeted investments in developing the technologies that will deliver a vibrant economy with a lower greenhouse signature. The greatest intervention effort by the Australian Government so far, has been to support a greater role for renewables, including the introduction of the Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets (MRET) scheme. I should speak more on this aspect later.

Australia's physical and geographic characteristics—ours is a large, hot and generally dry continent with a small, dispersed and yet highly urbanised population—make us a difficult candidate for a high level of renewable application. Only about 6% of total energy use in Australia comes from renewable energy. In the electricity sector, current use of renewable energy contributes nearly 11%. This is expected to expand significantly in the next decade.

On the other hand, Australia is blessed with an abundance of good renewable resources—solar, wind, tidal and biomass.

Australian Government is providing a major boost to renewable energy as a key part of its overall strategy for reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. The Government, in partnership with industry, launched a Renewable Energy Action Agenda three years ago, to underpin the renewable energy industry in Australia, based on a competitive energy market with clear signals provided to investors. This Action Agenda aims to grow annual industry sales to $4 billion by 2010 and industry is playing a key role in its implementation.

A Renewable Energy Technology Roadmap has followed on from the Action Agenda. This outlines a long-term research and development plan that defines the industry's collective future and establishes clear pathways forward. Other more detailed roadmaps are now being developed for areas of special interest such as photovoltaics.

Key Policies and Programs

A key element of the Australian Government's renewable energy strategy is the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) scheme which was introduced in April 2001. The initiative, which will be in place until 2020, is a world-first in developing a legislated national renewable energy market based on an innovative system of tradeable certificates. The Australian Government remains committed to the measure and after almost three years of operation, an independent review of the MRET found that it is meeting its objectives, with industry taking up the challenge of delivering new renewable energy projects.

MRET, coupled with other significant Government programs dedicated to renewable energy, are ensuring Australia is on track to achieve its Kyoto-compliance emissions target and positioning Australia for a lower greenhouse signature.

Coupled with this expanded market through MRET, Australia has introduced a suite of programs that have successfully supported project delivery and technology support.

Over the past five years, Australia has allocated over $300 million to programs that have encouraged deployment of existing renewable energy technologies and furthering industry capacity building.

These programs address a range of approaches, such as supporting solar power in homes and community use buildings; supporting the installation of renewable energy in remote areas; providing venture capital for small innovative renewable energy companies; showcasing Australian technology; and supporting the commercialisation of renewable energy technologies.

The potential of hydrogen to deliver significant economic and environmental benefits is also recognized and supported.

Thus, through a combination of providing and promoting the market “pull” factor, such as the legislated targets provided by the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target scheme, and the efficient and competitive provision of support—the market “push” factor—for the commercialisation and deployment of innovative renewable energy technologies, Australia is growing and developing a significant industry sector.


The results of these initiatives are impressive.

Around 190 power stations run on renewable energy have been accredited across Australia, covering a wide range of technologies.

Wind power has grown at 30% per annum in Australia over recent years and could reach over 2,000 MW of installed capacity in the near future.

Over 5,000 households and community buildings across Australia have installed solar panels on their roofs and generate their own solar electricity. More than 1,700 of these are grid connected and can sell any excess electricity they produce back to the main grid.

50 projects have been supported to commercialise new renewable energy technologies, in areas such as photovoltaics, wind, wave, biomass energy, and enabling technologies such as battery and inverter technology.

Many of these technologies are already showing their potential for regional and international markets. For example the commercialization of dish and trough solar concentrators, the development of innovative photovoltaic cells, the design and development of specialised inverters, the integration of wind energy into diesel grids, and the design and manufacture of a solar and wind-powered hybrid passenger catamaran, are developments that are keeping Australia at the leading edge of renewable energy technology.

Isolated households and remote communities are installing photovoltaic power, wind turbines and micro-hydro generators to reduce their reliance on diesel fuel for power generation. Australia has much technology and experience to share that may be relevant to developing countries faced with the challenge of providing energy to remote rural populations.

Australia is at the leading edge of technical training and accreditation of renewable energy designers and installers.

International Cooperation

In addition to domestic measures, Australia is also actively involved in a number of international forums which are undertaking activities to promote the uptake of renewable energy. For example, renewable energy forms an important component of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Energy Working Group (EWG) Type 2 Partnership Initiative, Fostering Regional Energy Cooperation in APEC: Energy for Sustainable Development.

In particular, Australia has led a project which assessed the training needs and capabilities of APEC member economies for the planning design, operation and maintenance of renewable energy systems. An associated project is currently being undertaken which will develop and implement a system for accrediting renewable energy training in member countries.

Australia also participates in International Energy Agency's (IEA) International Agreements specifically directed to renewable energy. There are nine such Agreements. All are practical and cost effective mechanisms to accelerate technology developments by sharing information and expertise and broadening the prospects of market deployment for renewable energy.

I understand that Australia is likely to join the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and work with other partners to undertake the substantial program of work proposed to expand the global market for renewable energy. Australia considers REEEP a practical means of disseminating information about renewable and energy efficiency technologies and believes Australia has much to offer to the partnership, based on our experience with renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, policies and programs.

Australia is currently progressing bilateral cooperation on climate change with the United States, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, and China. These relationships provide a framework to focus on practical and measurable outcomes that benefit both countries, including opportunities for renewable energy development. They complement multilateral initiatives previously mentioned, including partnerships that emerged from the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Australia also participates in the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, and our work on hydrogen includes its generation using renewable energy.


Australia recognises the importance of a strategic plan for Australia's long term energy policy. As such, over the past 18 months, the Government has worked to develop a consistent and coherent framework for energy policy in Australia. While specific details are not yet available, it is anticipated that a major statement on energy to be released in the near future will include a strong component on the role of renewable energy.

In all of these programs and relationships we aim to build the opportunity for the private sector to contribute its entrepreneurial skills, knowledge, networks, and resources. And we strive to include business more broadly in international collaboration initiatives.