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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12610

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (Braddon) (11:37): In rising to speak on the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Bill 2011 and the cognate bill, I say good morning, colleagues, and it is terrific to be here with you discussing what is so absolutely crucial to our economy, to our community and, indeed, to our planet. It is part of our global responsibility to be talking about a clean energy future, most especially in relation to our clean energy package. One of the fundamental parts of that package is the creation of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA.

I was very pleased yesterday to have heard the opposition spokesperson, my friend the member for Groom, support this legislation. I find that very heartening for a number of reasons. One is that I know personally that he does support it and I suspect that he very strongly supports our whole clean energy package. He was within one vote of securing something similar a number of months ago from those on the other side, yet you would never know that if you had listened to them speaking about the legislation since. I suspect that he is a strong believer in the package because he knows the creation of such an agency is required to bring about a cleaner energy future.

Secondly, I suspect that the support on the other side of the chamber means that they do not really have an intention to roll back this legislation in the future. I strongly suspect that will not occur and that they know it. But I do welcome it.

Thirdly, as the member for Groom understands—and certainly our ministers responsible for introducing the clean energy future package understand—such an agency makes sense: it is rational, it is practical. What it really does is consolidate the decision making around clean energy proposals into a single body, incorporate the expertise that currently exists in a number of other bodies associated with renewable energy projects and their application throughout Australia and consolidate the ability to decide on new projects and the allocation of funds which currently exist or are not allocated as yet. So I do commend the opposition on their support of this really important, practical, sensible, realistic and appropriate legislation.

ARENA, as the new agency in the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism portfolio, will incorporate initiatives previously administered separately through a range of bodies, including the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, the Australian Solar Institute and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. This collective have done a remarkably good job as the various renewable energy projects evolved, and of course there is huge potential that still exists within renewable energies, and their expertise will be incorporated in ARENA. I find that very heartening. ARENA will have an independent decision-making board appointed by the Minister for Resources and Energy and it will also have a CEO appointed by the Minister for Resources and Energy on the recommendation of the ARENA board. ARENA's role will be to allocate funding to renewable energy and enabling technology projects. The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism will provide administrative support to ARENA. The legislation before us also deals with the governance arrangements in relation to ARENA.

The establishment of ARENA will not delay the delivery of existing initiatives, and the Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund application process continues, as will the rollout of the Emerging Renewables Program, while ASI, the Australian Solar Institute, will continue to deliver its existing programs. Upon its establishment, ARENA will take over responsibility for these initiatives. ARENA will manage the $3.2 billion investment in renewable energy investments to promote research and development, demonstration, commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy projects to improve the sector's competitiveness. Around $1.7 billion in uncommitted funding from a range of consolidated programs will be available to the ARENA board to invest in new renewable energy projects such as large-scale solar, geothermal and ocean. It will also include projects that potentially involve renewable energy related transmission infrastructure investments between now and 2020.

This funding will be allocated in accordance with the funding strategy developed by the ARENA board. ARENA will fund projects that will help increase the deployment of renewable energy and drive down its costs in an Australian context. It will complement the new Clean Energy Finance Corporation. ARENA will oversee existing government support from the following initiatives and will have responsibility for managing the unallocated funds from these initiatives—for example, the Solar Flagships Program, the Australian Solar Institute, Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund (Solar), Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, ACRE Solar Projects, Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund, Australian Biofuels Research Institute, Emerging Renewables Program, Geothermal Drilling Program, Second Generation Biofuels Research and Development Program and, finally, Connecting Renewables Initiative. That is the purview of this legislation. As I said before, it is a consolidation of the ideas, technologies, funding, expertise and investment in research and development related to Australian renewable energy.

While I am on that really interesting topic of renewable energy, you cannot think renewable energy unless you think of Tasmania. We are the renewable energy capital of not just Australia but our wider region.

Mr Hayes: The world.

Mr SIDEBOTTOM: It could well be the world. We have been renewable for many decades. Most of that is associated with hydroelectricity. We also have excellent wind generation capacity, geothermal, wave power and so forth. What do we think about renewable energy? First of all, it is produced from resources that replenish themselves in a short time frame. Energy obtained from wind power or water—hydro, for example—does not use up any resource in its creation, thereby ensuring an inexhaustible supply. Other forms of renewable energy include solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal, wave and biomass. Fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas are finite resources that are being depleted at a rapid rate as well as producing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas of major concern because of global warming. We should all understand that. Renewable energy produces less CO2 emissions than energy obtained by burning fossil fuels and is consequently a preferable source of energy.

Tasmania is currently the leader in renewable energy generation in Australia and is well known for its impressive hydroelectricity system. Tasmania also has one of the best performing wind farms in the world. It is in my region and is called Woolnorth. This is in the far north-west of Tassie; in fact, it is right next door to a rather interesting place called Cape Grim—by the way, magnificent Cape Grim premium beef is produced in that area as well. And that is only rivalled in the world by King Island premium beef.

Ms Marino interjecting

Mr SIDEBOTTOM: Indeed. As soon as you step out of Braddon I am sure that there are other contenders. However, we have a worldwide reputation for our beef. Cape Grim also has an air monitoring station. It is said to monitor the cleanest air in the world—and I am sure that you have heard this and believe it. That is where we take the air monitoring records. So we have the lot: the cleanest air in the world, the best wind in the world and the best beef in the world.

Mr Hayes: It sounds like a utopia.

Mr SIDEBOTTOM: It is a utopia. And we have the best representative in the federal parliament, the current member for Braddon! Enough—you interrupt me.

Renewable hydro and wind power currently represents 87 per cent of mainland Tasmania's installed electricity generation capacity. There is indeed significant potential for the expansion of renewable energy generation in Tassie and for Tasmania to become a showcase for not just tomorrow's but today's renewable energy technologies. I mentioned before that we have hydro electricity. We are renowned for that. And hydro provides tourism potential. So we have all the benefits that flow from these massive hydro schemes.

The other renewable energy resource that have is wind. Tassie lies in the path of the Roaring Forties, the prevailing westerly winds that circle the earth at high southern latitudes. Tassie has world-class resources for the generation of wind power. Currently, there are two major operating wind farms in the state, Woolnorth in the north-west—which I just mentioned to you—and Huxley Hill wind farm on King Island. That wind farm's technology is also going to extend to Flinders Island, which is the jewel in the crown, I suppose, of the electorate of Bass as King Island is the jewel in the crown for the whole of Tasmania.

On 20 February 2010 the Minister for Resources and Energy and I had the great privilege of announcing the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project, which was part and parcel of the government's renewable energy packages for Australia. This $15.28 million was a major funding boost, as part of a $46 million project on King Island and with technologies transferable to Flinders Island, in conjunction with the Tasmanian government and Hydro Tasmania. That has, effectively, integrated a number of renewable energy technologies, which of course can be transferable to other remote area locations. These are a combination of solar, wind and photovoltaic cells to store energy, along with the use and capacity of diesel generators. Because King Island is not connected directly to the Tasmanian mainland, the intention is to put together composite forms of energy but, most especially, to develop the renewable energy side of that so that the island can rely on renewable resources for its energy rather than on diesel. It is a really exciting project.

The Prime Minister recently visited King Island. In fact, it was only the second time a Prime Minister of Australia had visited King Island. I think former Prime Minister Robert Menzies visited some 50-odd years before. The Prime Minister joined with me and the community and visited that site. They are truly pioneering renewable technologies at work, which will be transferable to other areas in Australia. I congratulate the current Minister for Resources and Energy, Minister Ferguson, this government, the Tasmanian government and Hydro Tasmania on the terrific work that they are doing there.

That is not to say that Tassie is not investing even more in renewable energy. In terms of wind energy for Tassie, Musselroe Bay is the next cab off the rank. There are some very exciting geothermal projects in the southern part of the state. Technologies such as wave technology and the use of biomass are also being developed in Tassie. We will always remain the clean energy and renewable capital of Australia. (Time expired)