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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8018


Ms NEAL (6:06 PM) —I rise in the House today to speak in support of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009. The bill will expand and enhance the current mandatory renewable energy target scheme. The Australian people have shown the government that they expect bold action on climate change, and this bill demonstrates that the government is delivering on this expectation.

The revised renewable energy target scheme will implement the government’s commitment to a renewable energy target of 20 per cent of our electricity supply to come from renewable sources by the year 2020. This represents a fourfold expansion of the nation’s renewable energy sector. The current target of 9,500 gigawatt hours of electricity to be provided from renewable sources will be expanded to require that 45,000 gigawatt hours—or some 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity—be produced from renewable sources by the year 2020.

Electricity generation currently accounts for more than one-third of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. That is why it is vital that Australia move towards higher targets for renewable electricity production. These expanded targets will accelerate the development and deployment of a range of renewable energy technologies, such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power. The new scheme will create a guaranteed market for additional renewable energy deployment through the use of tradeable renewable energy certificates. These measures will in turn attract additional investment and create additional jobs within the expanded renewable energy sector.

It is estimated through Treasury modelling that by 2050 the renewable electricity sector will be 30 times larger than it is today. The expanded RET scheme will accelerate green jobs and, together with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, will drive around $19 billion in investment in the renewable energy sector in the period to 2020. The RET scheme will assist Australian households with the up-front costs of installing small-scale renewable energy systems such as solar, wind, micro-hydro and solar photovoltaic systems. This ‘solar credits’ mechanism will allow owners of small-scale renewable energy systems to earn multiple renewable energy certificates for their microgeneration systems.

A new element of the renewable energy trading scheme is an increase in the penalties for those liable parties who do not meet their obligations to purchase renewable energy certificates. In a related bill, the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009, this shortfall charge will increase from $40 per megawatt hour to $65 per megawatt hour. The bill also provides for partial exemptions from liability under the expanded renewable energy target. These partial exemptions will apply to those activities that are classified as emissions-intensive trade-exposed activities under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

These exemptions recognise that renewable energy obligations will have an impact on emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries. The exemptions take into account not only the impact of the current global financial crisis on Australian industries but the cumulative effect on industry of this legislation and the obligations required from industry under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. A comprehensive review of the renewable energy target scheme will be undertaken in 2014 to coincide with a planned strategic review of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. This government has made great efforts towards positioning Australia to meet the challenges of climate change.

The bill before us today represents a significant opportunity to reduce Australia’s energy sector emissions while driving $19 billion of investment and creating significant numbers of green jobs as part of an estimated 30-fold increase in the renewable electricity sector by 2050. In facing this future, Australia must employ a range of responses. Our nation must, however, always find cleaner and more efficient ways to produce energy. The Rudd Labor government has shown its credentials in moving towards a low pollution future for Australia. I commend the bill to the House.