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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8028


Mr SECKER (6:51 PM) —I want to first back up the thoughts of the member for Parkes, who talked about algae as one of the future possibilities. In fact, I can relate a story. In my electorate there is a small village—although you could hardly call it that—called Salt Creek, and it is along the Coorong. I think that many people in this chamber would know a fair bit about the Coorong. The fact is that there was a black oily substance that they thought was oil. They put down a drill to find more of this oil and found that in fact it was algae. There is huge potential to use that resource. It has been around for a long time and I think we need to do a lot more research into it and make it a commercial possibility.

It may interest members of this chamber to know that I have been using renewable energy basically all my life. I live on a farm and we have heaps of windmills. It is just a normal part of our life. It is virtually impossible to get power out to many remote parts of the farm, so we use windmills. I may not have been fixing up windmills at three or four years of age, but I think I was climbing them—which you did as a young person on a farm. Of course, they have been supplying energy for probably centuries and they are quite a good form of power.

The coalition’s vision for a clean energy economy supports the potential of emerging technologies such as tidal, hydrogen cell, geothermal and wave, and it is a vision that I share. These technologies should have and deserve a portion of the renewable energy target reserved towards a clean energy future for Australia. It would be of concern if this legislation were to mean just more windmills or more turbines and did not include these other technologies that can produce reasonably efficient baseload power. It would be of great concern if this legislation, the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009, were to lead to increased demand for coal and wind power at the expense of gas generation, for example, which is much cleaner than coal. It seems to me that this legislation does nothing to stop that happening. In fact, it is quite unusual to be debating a bill in parliament when we actually do not know what the end results are going to be. This is the first time, apart from when we had the CPRS legislation last week, that I have been in a situation where I do not know the final outcome or the regulations, and we have just got to trust that it is all going to happen.

I know from our experience with MRET that it seemed to produce only wind power generation, which unfortunately produces only intermittent, expensive energy—albeit at some benefit to parts of my electorate. Clean energy is fundamental in reducing Australia’s net emissions and providing jobs in rural Australia, including in my electorate of Barker. Renewable clean energy is a positive step towards our goal of reducing net emissions. Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources—such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, wave and geothermal heat—which are renewable, meaning that they are naturally replenished.

In my electorate of Barker we have three promising projects which are working towards our vision for a clean energy economy. Of course, unlike the previous speaker, I do not claim to be having a ‘high level forum’ on the idea. These sorts of things are happening without politicians actually saying that they should happen. The projects are: an established wind farm in Millicent; a proposed site for wave power around Port MacDonnell, which is just below Mount Gambier; and a site in Penola, and also around Millicent, where drilling has commenced for geothermal energy.

Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as electricity, using wind turbines. Millicent, situated in the south-east of my electorate, is home to the largest wind farm development in the southern hemisphere. The site cost $92.5 million and it hosts 23 turbines capable of generating approximately 46 megawatts of electricity. This is enough electricity to provide the power needs of around 30,000 homes. Each turbine blade spans 39 metres, making them some of the largest installed in Australia. Electricity from this wind farm is produced up to 34 per cent of the time. That is the weakness of wind energy: for two-thirds of the time it will not produce energy. Thirty-four per cent is actually a high yield by global standards, but it is still not a baseload that can be relied upon for all of our needs. The wind farm created hundreds of jobs during its installation period, and it continues to provide some jobs into the future.

Geothermal technology is an emerging renewable energy technology that uses heat from the earth’s crust. This is a far more exciting area of renewable energy because it can provide a baseload that will be there for some time to come. It is designed to run continuously, which makes it a reliable source of clean energy. Geothermal is an important renewable energy resource and should be reserved as an emerging renewable energy technology by the government. Drilling has commenced for geothermal purposes 40 kilometres north of Mount Gambier in my electorate, in the Penola Trough. The Penola Trough forms part of the Otway Basin, a rift basin which was initiated during the Cretaceous period on the now southern margin of the Australian mainland. It is an exciting project that is helping our country move towards a clean energy future.

Wave energy is a renewable energy resource created by large storms hundreds of kilometres offshore. These storms generate and transmit huge amounts of energy, which travels great distances via swell and mixes with local influences in the seas to arrive at our shores. It is a genuinely renewable energy source, distinct from tidal energy—although I do support tidal energy.

The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately two terawatts—that is, two million megawatts, about double the current world electricity production—could be produced from the oceans via wave power. It is estimated that one million gigawatt hours of wave energy hits Australian shores annually. Wave technology can operate efficiently in swell in the one- to two-metre wave height range, greatly increasing the number of potential baseload sites globally. For example, much of southern Australia receives significant wave heights, in excess of one metre, 100 per cent of the time. Port MacDonnell, situated in my electorate, has been earmarked for a wave power site with a 99 per cent available wave resource at the site, the second highest percentile wave resource site in Australia. The other beauty of wave energy is that, being based in sea water, it can provide clean energy to desalinated sea water—instead of using the high powered consumption models which are now in use in Australia and planned for the future and which use power that is generated mostly by coal or gas. All three projects boost our clean energy future, and I fully support them and am proud to have them occurring in my electorate of Barker.

Hydrogen cell generation does not seem to be part of this government’s priorities but it is a useful addition to alternative fuel and its emissions are basically steam. And, of course, the government continues to keep its head in the sand on nuclear power. It is quite happy to export uranium to other countries, where they can reduce emissions; but it is not prepared to have the vision or the strength to even contemplate nuclear power in Australia, even though it has been proven to be a safe and reliable baseload power. I support our vision of a clean energy economy and encourage the inclusion of these renewable energy technologies in the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009. And it would be nice to actually find out what is going to be there.