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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1342

Renewable Energy

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (14:17): My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. The government tells us that Australia should be able to achieve the policy trifecta of energy—that is affordable, reliable and secure. Feedback from my electorate is that energy also should be sustainable.

Across Australia there are more than 60 groups developing community energy projects. The most popular are community solar projects. In Indi alone 24 per cent of households have rooftop solar. The community initiative Totally Renewable Yackandandah continues to drive amazing change at the grass roots level.

My question is: what support can the minister and the government offer to communities in rural and regional Australia to help us move to a community energy model?

Mr FRYDENBERG (KooyongMinister for the Environment and Energy) (14:17): I thank the member for Indi for her question and congratulate her local community for taking positive initiatives to integrate renewables effectively into the grid and to create more sustainable communities. She has personally told me about the experiences of Wangaratta and Benalla councils, which have proceeded with lower energy lighting, and the work that that is doing to lower their fuel bills and also to lower their carbon footprint.

At the federal level, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been working in the electorate of Indi to support local businesses. In fact, thanks to government support, Nu Fruit in Wangaratta has installed rooftop solar to supply more than 10 per cent of its electricity needs. Wodonga Rendering and Wodonga Abattoir can stay competitive as exporters by lowering their costs thanks to a trigeneration plant which provides heat, chilling and electricity, as well as lowering emissions. Local apple and chestnut grower, Nightingale Bros, will cuts its energy costs by 40 per cent by replacing refrigeration facilities with a new ammonia-based cooling system and smart controls.

The Turnbull government has announced a $5 million solar communities program. That is doing work to provide up to $15,000 for installing rooftop solar PV. The key point here is that Australia has the highest penetration in the world on a per capita basis of solar PV.

Whether it is through our Clean Energy Innovation Fund and the Southern Cross Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund—which is investing well over $5 million in GreenSync, an Australian company which specialises in innovative technology management—whether it is the work we are doing at Coober Pedy or King Island, where diesel is being replaced by renewable energy power systems supplying over 65 per cent of the island's energy needs, the Turnbull government is getting on with providing increased funding and support for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA to undertake important storage, battery storage and pump hydro facilities, as well as local solar initiative projects and supporting business to lower their fuel costs and lower their carbon footprint.