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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5454

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) (5:50 PM) —This is just to indicate the government’s position on this. As I have indicated to Senator Xenophon, we will not be supporting either of these groups of amendments. I think that the government’s policy position on this has been clear all along. We are supporters of emerging technologies as well. The policy question in relation to this issue is not whether you think that geothermal and other emerging technologies are a good thing and we need to invest in them; the question is: what is the best mechanism?

We are of the view that we should have a renewable energy target that is not about picking winners but about driving the deployment of renewable energy. It is a very significant expansion of the target that is being proposed by the government. But we also say that you do need to ensure that this market incentive, this market mechanism of the renewable energy target, is complemented by significant direct support for the development, commercialisation and deployment of emerging renewable technologies.

Senator Abetz interjecting—

Senator WONG —Senator Abetz, I will take that interjection because actually, yes, you might be surprised, it is the government who have been arguing for a market mechanism through the Carbon Pollution Production Scheme—obviously a market that is well regulated. We do think the renewable energy target needs to be complemented by significant direct support, as I said, for the development, commercialisation and deployment of emerging renewable technologies, including geothermal, and I would remind the chamber that the government have done this. We have a $4.5 billion Clean Energy Initiative, announced as part of the 2009-10 budget, which includes just over $1½ billion to support research and development of solar technologies and $465 million to establish the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy. The geothermal industry has, I am advised, received some $83 million in targeted grant support through government programs since the year 2000. Under this government, the geothermal drilling program, which is part of the Clean Energy Initiative, has seen $14 million in grants awarded in April this year, with $36 million remaining in the program. Applications under the second round of that program closed on 4 August. I also indicate that my colleague Minister Ferguson announced two successful projects under round 1, including $7 million each for the Limestone Coast project from Panax and MNGI’s Paralana project. It is also open to the geothermal industry to apply for grants to support demonstration of renewable energy technologies under the $300 million Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, which is also part of the Clean Energy Initiative.