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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12613


Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (11:52): It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Renewable Energy Agency Bill 2011 and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Consequential Arrangements and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011. These bills create a statutory authority, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA, under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act. The bill also establishes the position of the members on the board of ARENA and the ARENA chief executive and sets out ARENA's governance, financial and operational arrangements.

This is a very important part of the government's package to lower carbon emissions. As we all know, landmark legislation has been passed through parliament. The clean energy legislation is the first tranche of Labor's efforts to lower carbon emissions. It is evident that the government is taking the issue of climate change very seriously.

The second aspect of addressing climate change is the legislation that we have before us today. It is about producing innovation and investment and, in doing that, we will be lowering emissions. It is all about lowering emissions and providing a clean energy future. Members of this parliament know that the way to a clean energy future is not only by putting a price on carbon, which is really important because it acts as a disincentive to pollute; but there is the other aspect—and that is putting in place the technology that will enable us to move towards a renewable energy economy. It is all about creating new jobs and skills for the future. The piece of legislation we have before us today is about a clean energy future.

ARENA, the new agency, will incorporate initiatives previously administered separately through a range of different bodies, and there have already been an enormous number of initiatives taken by this government to move towards a clean and renewable energy future. Previously, this was administered through the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, the Solar Institute and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism; now it will all be under one umbrella while the government is making significant investments in a renewable energy future.

ARENA will manage a $3.2 billion dollar fund in renewable energy; invest and promote research and development; and demonstrate commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy to improve projects around $1.7 billion in uncommitted funds for a range of consolidated programs. It will fund projects that will increase the deployment of renewable energy like the Solar Flagships program; Australian Solar Institute; Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund; Renewable Energy Demonstration Program; ACRE solar projects; Renewable Energy Venture Capital; Australian Biofuels Research Institute; Emerging Renewables program; Geothermal Drilling Program; Second Generation Biofuel Research and Development Program; and Connecting Renewables Initiative. From that list, you can see that ARENA in a coordinating role will fund current projects at a higher level and see them working together.

In the region that I come from there have already been significant investments in new technology. A solar tower was opened in June this year and the development of that facility was supported by a $5 million grant from the Australian Solar Institute in a partnership program. The Minister for Resources and Energy came to the opening. The Hunter region is already home to the CSIRO National Solar Energy Centre, the Australian Solar Institute and the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources as well as the Smart Grid, Smart City initiative, which I think is the way of the future.

The tower is surrounded by 450 locally manufactured custom designed mirrors, heliostats. It is capable of generating temperatures of up to 1500 degrees Celsius and is used to research solar energy. It is a smaller project at this stage but it is the type of innovation we will be seeing into the future.

I would like to share with the House that Moree Solar Farm has won a $1.5 billion through the Solar Flagships program and $464 million for the Solar Dawn project in Chinchilla, which is worth an estimated $1.2 billion. Around $306.5 million went to the project in Moree. That is a considerable amount of money, but we cannot just judge it in dollar terms. We have to look at what it is delivering to this nation, what it is delivering for the future sustainability of our nation and what role it will play in lowering emissions.

The Solar Dawn consortium's solar-thermal power hybrid plant near Chinchilla will be the largest generator of solar power in this country, and 85 per cent of Solar Dawn's power will be emissions free. That is rather spectacular. These are programs that exist at the moment but there will be many more programs established in future. There are programs that we cannot even think of at the moment because the technologies are unknown. It is because of ARENA and the investment in renewable energy in this country that we will be able to consider a future where we have lower emissions and a more environmentally friendly economy—an economy with new green jobs and an economy where we are producing energy in a much more efficient way.

I was privileged to go with the Climate Change, Environment and the Arts Committee to China. We looked at what actions China was taking to address climate change. The first thing I found overwhelming was the fact that everywhere we went in China people acknowledged the fact that climate change was a reality. They also acknowledged the fact that if we did not do something to address climate change, and if China did not do something to address climate change, their future and the future of our planet would be greatly jeopardised. There was a common will to look at climate change and to look at initiatives that could be taken.

For the record, six provinces in China have already introduced carbon pricing schemes. In addition to that I want to share with the parliament some of the exciting renewable energy initiatives that are taking place in China. We went to Baoding, which is a province not far from Beijing. We visited the Yingli Green Energy solar panel factory. It was a high-tech industrial development zone and we saw the products they were producing, which were all renewable and alternative energy generated. We also looked at the way the plant operated. We visited the photovoltaic grid-connected system at the hotel where we had lunch. The hotel was powered solely by alternative and renewable energy. We visited a number of exciting projects; we even saw a jointly funded project that was capturing CO2 and using it in food products. The CSIRO had contributed to that project. It showed a partnership between the Australian government and the Chinese government.

It was really interesting to see what was happening in that area. Whilst we were there we also visited Tianjin, which is an ecocity. It is not completed as yet; it has been reported in the media here. We picked up those reports here and decided that, while we were there, we would really like to see it. The first thing that became apparent was the lighting on the streets, which is powered by solar panels plus wind power. So two forms of alternative energy are used to power those streetlights. Interestingly, the whole of the environment is designed to encourage people to use bikes, to walk and to use alternative approaches to getting around in that area. It is a centre of great innovation and it is a joint project between Singapore and China. I would recommend to anyone that, if possible, they should go and have a look at it, particularly in a couple of years down the track, when it will be closer to completion.

We also went to Shanghai and whilst in Shanghai we visited their alternative energy display. It is obviously of great interest to people who live in Shanghai, because school children were being taken through the centre. You could see so many different and alternative forms of heating, cooling and different ways of cooking. It was very interesting to see how the Chinese had embraced the need for renewable energy.

Here in Australia, the establishment of ARENA will see that our commitment to renewable energy is coordinated and that here in Australia we are now fulfilling our commitment to a renewable energy future.