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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8069


Senator O'BRIEN (2:17 AM) —The opposition opposes this amendment because it goes to the matter of how baselines were originally set. Also, we believe this is a matter of policy and, as such, is best dealt with in the properly resourced review of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000, which begins in January next year. I understand that the baselines were developed by the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator in conjunction with independent consultants. Over 30 different methodologies for determining baselines for existing hydrogenerators were considered, using Australia-wide hydrogeneration data dating back to 1955. It was determined that a three- to five-year data period was not stable. Ten-year data is more stable and 15-year data is even more so. It was determined that the 15-year mark was the best compromise. The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed that a 15-year cycle is consistent with rainfall- and weather-modelling techniques used nationally. In the end, the decision was taken to use 14-year data—roughly equivalent to one weather cycle—due to data availability. It was concluded that two analyses were needed to establish the typical 1997 value of each power plant—namely, a simple 14-year average of the data and a linear interpolation curve fitted to the data to extract the 1997 value.

By comparing these two analyses, it was possible to check several features of the data. For example, if the linear interpolation 1997 value was very close, it could be concluded that no growth in output was occurring at the power plant and that it was likely that the data set represented a full cycle. If there were a poor match between the two, this would indicate one of several things: the data may have been incomplete, it may have only represented part of the cycle or there may have been growth in generation from the power plant. Depending on the results of further examination of the data, either an interpolated value or an average value was adopted.

I understand that all of that means that there has been a scientific basis for establishing the baseline data. Perhaps more importantly, no-one has been able to demonstrate that the existing circumstance, the baselines, has prevented additional investment in renewable energy options around the country. We are about to have a review, commencing next month. It no doubt will take time if it is conducted properly but, if this is to be a system that goes on into the future, the opposition would much prefer that this issue be dealt with in an appropriate review that takes its time over the matter, rather than relying on the considerations of the Senate at 2, 3 or 4 a.m. on a Friday morning at the end of a session to determine policy for the next decade in terms of important renewable energy generators in the system.

There is no doubt that there are critics of the Tasmanian hydro system, but it will also be recognised that at present Tasmania generates 60 per cent of the renewable energy generated in this country. It should not be surprising that in Tasmania they have the capacity to generate significant renewable energy certificates. It also should not be surprising that they are investing many millions of dollars in extending the renewable energy generation situation in that state, particularly for wind power generation. For these reasons, the opposition will not be supporting this amendment.