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Thursday, 27 May 2010
Page: 4365


Ms HALL (9:21 AM) —The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 and cognate bills enshrine in legislation the changes to the Renewable Energy Target Scheme that will take effect from January 2011. This is landmark legislation. This very important legislation recognises the importance of Australia reducing its carbon footprint. This legislation will also make the Renewable Energy Target Scheme work a lot better. The legislation will divide the existing scheme into two parts: the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, the SRES, and the large-scale renewable energy target, the LRET.

Mr Speaker, it is a pleasure to be making this speech while you are in the chair. I do make quite a few speeches in the other House. The new LRET and the SRES combined are expected to deliver more renewable energy than the existing 45,000-gigawatt-hour target in 2020. The degree to which this 20 per cent target is exceeded will depend on the uptake of the small-scale technologies by households, small businesses and community groups. Within the Shortland electorate there has been great enthusiasm from these groups in their desire to take up energy efficient technologies and renewable energy.

The people of the Shortland electorate are really keen to link into this scheme. At a meeting recently in my electorate a number of people were discussing solar panels. They were saying they were thinking of installing them on their houses. They could see this would not only benefit our environment but also lead to them having to pay less for their electricity. It is a win-win situation. The LRET portion of the target will be increased to ensure the 20 per cent by 2020 target is still met if the uptake of small-scale technologies is lower than anticipated. But, as I have already stated, I think it may end up being higher than anticipated, particularly in my area.

Under the existing Solar Credits initiative, the new fixed price of $40 per REC will see an average house in Shortland that installs a 1.5 kilowatt solar panel system in 2011 benefit from an upfront subsidy of $6,200 through the RECs. That is quite an incentive. There is also the added bonus of receiving cheaper electricity. The number of systems receiving support under the SRES will be uncapped to ensure small-scale installers have certainty. A problem with the previous scheme was that it was capped. There was no certainty and that did cause a problem for some people.

The purpose of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 is, as I have already stated, to separate the large-scale renewable energy target and the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. The changes will provide greater certainty for large-scale renewable energy projects and installers of small-scale renewable energy systems. The enhanced scheme will further strengthen the government’s commitment that the equivalent of at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020. As I have already stated, I think it will be greater than 20 per cent. That is testimony of the government’s commitment to bring about change. It is committed to renewable energy and lowering our carbon footprint. This scheme will benefit all Australians. We need to protect and look after our environment and this is one way of ensuring that that happens.

I would quickly like to touch on some of the initiatives that have been taken locally in the region I come from. The CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle has set a new benchmark in ecologically sustainable design by showcasing energy generation initiatives, building demand reduction and supply options. It is a focal point in Australia for energy research in the fields of sustainable energy, environmental impacts, and cost-competitive and environmentally-acceptable fossil fuel research. It has undertaken a lot of research. The work it has done has been groundbreaking. The government has supported the Energy Centre’s work.

In addition to that, in the Shortland electorate Delta Electricity has two power stations: one at Mannering Park and one at Lake Munmorah. The Lake Munmorah power station is very outdated and needs to be upgraded. A project is taking place to introduce gas-fired facilities, which will be used in times of high demand. The old technology will be replaced with new technology. Delta is working towards improving its impact on the environment.

Delta Electricity is an electricity supplier that is mindful of the need to look at lower emissions and a sustainable future for generating electricity. It is looking at diversifying its electricity portfolio and is reflecting community and government expectations in changing its technology and working with the community and governments to lower emissions. It is looking at sustainable energy generation, at minimising the impact of existing coal fired plants and investing in the latest technologies and working with governments. It is investing in low-emission, renewable energy generation and developing new low-emissions energy technologies such as carbon capture. So Delta have indicated to me on a number of occasions that they are very mindful of the need to change. They are very mindful of the desire of governments to lower carbon emissions and, as such, they are introducing technologies to address this need. They meet with the state member and me on a regular basis to keep us informed of the changes that are taking place within their organisation, both locally and throughout the state. The member for Swansea and I both encourage Delta Electricity to continue to look at cutting-edge technologies and new ways of generating energy.

Slipping back to the renewable energy targets issue, that is part of a suite of government policies to encourage people to switch to cleaner energy to complement the renewable energy target. The government is making significant investment in the generation of renewables through the $4.5 billion Clean Energy Initiative. The initiative includes: the $1.5 Solar Flagships program to support the construction of large-scale grid-connected solar power stations operating in the market; the Australian Solar Institute, which will help to retain Australian solar expertise and develop the next generation of Australian solar researchers; and the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy. The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency estimates that the RET will add less than $4 per year to the average household electricity bill.

I remind members and those people who are listening to this debate that people can now elect to receive 100 per cent, or a lower percentage, of their electricity from renewable sources by discussing this with their provider of electricity. That is something that I do. I have elected to receive part of my electricity from a renewable source and I would encourage other members to do so. A discussion paper was published in March 2010 which looks at enhancing the renewable energy targets. It examines all the issues that are in this legislation and, again, I would suggest that people have a look at that discussion paper. The submissions closed in April and we do have the legislation before the parliament at the moment. There is a lot of information out there for people to read to enable them to understand the reasoning behind this legislation. I would encourage smaller consumers and community groups to utilise the benefits of this legislation through the SRES when it comes into force. It makes a considerable contribution towards the cost of installing solar panels. I would encourage schools to use the scheme that is available for them to have solar panels installed and I would encourage businesses to look at the initiatives that are available for them to transfer to and use the rebate schemes that are available.

The one available for schools is the National Solar School Program. It offers schools $50,000 in solar power grants and up to $100,000 if it is a dual campus school. They are a couple of examples of the types of initiatives out there. I would encourage all Australians to embrace the spirit of this legislation. I urge larger companies and organisations to use the LRET, and community groups, individuals and schools to link into the SRES. I commend the legislation to the House.