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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11254


Mr TURNOUR (3:14 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy and the Minister for Tourism. Will the minister update the House on the government’s commitment to deploying renewable energy in Australia?


Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) —I express my appreciation to the member for Leichhardt for his question on renewable energy. I was pleased to see him in attendance earlier this afternoon at a seminar currently underway in Parliament House, convened by the Treasurer and me, going to the question of baseload reliable energy in Far North Queensland. Renewable energy is one of the potential options in Far North Queensland. If we succeed on that front, we will have the capacity to pull through the further expansion of the resources sector in Australia, create sustainable jobs and perhaps also create opportunities to overcome the social blight that exists for the Indigenous community in the area by creating training and employment opportunities.

In that context I was pleased to announce at that seminar the establishment of the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, the latest government down payment on trying to do whatever we can to facilitate the development of renewable energy in Australia. I remind the House that the government’s program, which was also added to in the budget of this year, includes not only the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme but also the renewable energy target legislation which provides for us to obtain 20 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. That represents a $20 billion subsidy to the renewable energy sector by the Australian community.

To pull through the renewable energy sector in Australia is not just a question of putting a price on carbon and establishing renewable energy targets; it is perhaps more importantly a question of facilitating the development of technology which goes to the potential commercial deployment of renewable energy. Therefore, the government’s $4.5 billion Clean Energy Initiative includes a $1.5 billion Solar Flagships Program, $300 million for the Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, $15 million of the Second Generation Biofuels Program, $50 million for the Geothermal Drilling Program and a further $100 million for the Australian Solar Institute, which is headquartered in Newcastle.

But if we are to push the renewable energy sector in Australia to assist in addressing climate change then we also need to create a hub of activity; hence, the announcement today of the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy. Why do we need such a centre? Firstly, it will be a one-stop shop to help commercialise renewable energy technologies and to facilitate the innovation chain. Secondly, it will represent a hub for renewable energy knowledge and support within the Australian government and, hopefully, create a collaborative effort with not only the private sector but also state and territory governments. The centre will have more than $560 million to manage and will take on the management of a number of existing renewable energy programs. It will also have $100 million in new funding and $50 million from the formerly proposed Clean Energy Program for new initiatives.

I am pleased to advise that I have already had discussions with the office of the member for Groom with respect to our requirement to introduce legislation to parliament in November of this year for the purpose of trying to put in place the legislative framework that establishes ACRE in this calendar year. That is very important. I also want to put in place, side by side with that legislation, an interim advisory board. The first task of that interim advisory board will importantly be to make funding recommendations to me before the end of the year on the most prospective solar applications received under the original Renewable Energy Demonstration Program guidelines. The accelerated deployment, commercialisation and demonstration of renewable energy technologies through ACRE will clearly complement the government’s investment in research with the Australian Solar Institute, and industrial scale demonstration, through the Solar Flagships Program.

I am also pleased to advise the House today that the government has now decided on the design of the Solar Flagships Program. This is important because this is about baseload reliable energy from the renewable energy sector. Details can be found in the fact sheet that I released today at www.ret.gov.au. I commend the establishment of ACRE to the House and look to the support of the opposition for the facilitation of this legislation in November of this year.