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Thursday, 27 May 2010
Page: 4371

Mr PERRETT (9:56 AM) —I rise to speak in support of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 and related bills. I want to thank the member for New England for his contribution and say particularly that it is always good to see him go on the record praising the member for Braddon. I will make sure I pass that on to the member for Braddon, because he would be surprised to hear that occasionally there are slights raised from unnamed sources! I thank him for his contribution.

I want to start by going on the record to make sure that people understand the fundamental premise that I bring to this speech: that climate change is real. The second premise I bring is that acting later will cost far more than acting now. The other premise that I bring to this speech is that I am not any more valuable than a person in future generations. I have exactly the same value and they have the same value as me. Therefore, I need to consider their lives and their future in the things that I or we do now. They are the three premises with which I start this speech.

The Rudd Labor government are committed to real action on climate change. Late last year, we had our efforts to introduce the CPRS torpedoed by the Nationals, by the Greens, by Steve Fielding, by Nick Xenophon and by most Liberals in the Senate. Nevertheless, we will continue to transition our economy to a low-carbon future. If you want to know which party will take action on climate change, you just have to look at the votes on the CPRS in the Senate. The Nationals did not vote for it, the Greens did not vote for it and most Liberals did not vote for it. Only Labor senators and two dissenting Liberal Party senators did. The courageous Senator Boyce from Queensland and Senator Judith Troeth from Victoria voted with their convictions and had the courage to say that they were of the same value as future generations and they were prepared to make a decision. They did that even though it was harmful on the day when Tony Abbott won the coalition leadership on an anti-climate change ticket.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—The honourable member for Moreton ought to know that he should refer to the Leader of the Opposition by his title, not by his name.

Mr PERRETT —The member for Manly, the Leader of the Opposition, won the leadership—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Warringah.

Mr PERRETT —Sorry, I am showing my old Rugby League background! The irony is that, if the Greens had given their support to the Rudd government’s CPRS in the Senate, we would have had a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme ready to commence from 1 July 2011. The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the minister for climate change, Penny Wong, would have taken this starting point to the climate change conference in Copenhagen. Who knows what might have flowed from that if we had gone to the world and said we, one of the biggest per capita emitters in the world, have a starting point and a platform. Who knows what could have transpired. Copenhagen did bring some positive outcomes and that should be recognised rather than seeing it as the member for Warringah does. However, it was not humanity’s finest hour that is for sure.

That did not happen last year. Instead, the Greens senators chose to play a strategic and self-serving political game along with the National and the Liberal senators. Not only did they sell out the environment in a big way, they sold out their supporters, who had trusted the Greens to stick up for the environment. It is only the Labor Party who is standing up for the environment and for the future of this planet. As we face up to the realities of a less-than-receptive Senate, the Rudd Labor government is more determined than ever to do what we can now to tackle climate change. As I said, the fundamental premise we start with is that to act late will cost more than acting now. That is why every dollar from the deferral of the CPRS is being invested in renewable energy.

The beauty of renewable energy is that it is generated from unlimited sources, as is the case with wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydro. Our planet produces these resources naturally. For the most part, renewable energy is also clean energy, producing little or no greenhouse gases or toxic waste. In a carbon constrained future we will need renewable energy technologies to provide low-cost emission-free baseload energy. Australia’s geology, climate resources, expertise and skilled workforce have us ideally placed to develop renewable energies like geothermal, solar and wind. Unfortunately, Queensland is not as blessed as some of the other states when it comes to wind. As technology improves, renewable energy is becoming more cost effective and efficient and, as I said, it can provide baseload power. The more we can rely on renewable energies, the more we can reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions. The more certainty we can provide for the renewables sector, the more investment we will see to drive innovation and the development of new technologies. It will also make green jobs the boom of the future.

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 will deliver greater certainty to the renewable energy sector, both large-scale projects and small-scale installers. It does so by separating the Renewable Energy Target Scheme into two parts—the large-scale renewable energy target and the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme—from 1 January 2011. This will help ensure Australia meets its 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020. In fact, with the increasing uptake of renewable energies from households, small businesses and community groups, and with the changes in this bill, we can expect to exceed the 20 per cent target by 2020—45,000 gigawatt hours of electricity from renewable energy by 2020. That 45,000 gigawatt hours number just rolls off the tongue and I will come back to what a gigwatt is in a minute. 45,000 gigawatt hours would be the equivalent of using the same hairdryer continuously for 2.5 million years. That is what we are going to remove from the system. It is a lot of hair drying obviously—2.5 million years with the one hairdryer.

Not only are we providing incentives for large-scale renewable energy producers, we are also giving Australian households the tools to do their bit to conserve energy and switch to renewables. This bill reduces the annual targets under the large-scale renewable energy target by 4,000 gigwatt hours, with the shortfall to be generated under the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme. Now what is a gigawatt? For the edification of students who are not scientists, the most basic energy unit is a joule. Lifting a pen about metre in the air would require one joule of energy. A watt is the work done by one joule every second. So lifting the pen one metre in the air in one second would be working at the rate of one watt. People understand watts because we can talk about the old 40-watt or 60-watt light bulbs. As we have the minister for the environment here, he would be thinking of an 11-watt fluoro downlight rather than a 60-watt light bulb from days gone by. A fluoro downlight is about 11 watts and when we talk about a gigwatt we are talking about 90,909,090 fluoro downlights, to break it into understandable terms.

The new SRES will support installers of small-scale systems like solar panels and solar water heaters. It will create a new small-scale technology certificate priced at the fixed amount of $40. This means a householder installing a 1.5 kilowatt solar system would receive certificates worth about $6,000. A 1.5 kilowatt system is about a one metre by 1.5 metre solar panel on your roof, or maybe even slightly smaller. It is not much at all and most roofs could fit one.

The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator will be required to estimate the number of STCs expected to be created each year to maximise certainty for liable entities. The annual targets will be adjusted each year to account for the actual number of small-scale technology certificates created in the previous year. Existing bank renewable energy certificates will only be eligible for use in the large-scale renewable energy target. Therefore installers from small-scale technologies will be required to surrender RECs at $40 each.

This bill reflects the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to a greener future. In addition to the renewable energy target, the government is also investing in generation-scale renewables through the $5.1 billion Clean Energy Initiative, including the Solar Flagships program, to support the construction of large-scale grid connected solar power stations. The Rudd Labor government remains committed to developing a sustainable solution to climate change for Australia and our region over the long term. This bill is another stop along the way. I commend the bill to the House.