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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5466

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) (6:17 PM) —Thank you, Madam Temporary Chairman, and I appreciate that perhaps I have it wrong, but I think sheet 5816 revised deals with the required number of gigawatt hours and, essentially, making it a total proportion of energy as opposed to gigawatt hours. But I appreciate that Senator Bob Brown is obviously handling this debate in the absence of Senator Milne so I propose to respond on both amendments.

In relation to the first amendment on sheet 5816 revised, I have indicated to Senator Milne that I am prepared to read into Hansard certain words that deal with one aspect of her concerns—I do not pretend that it deals with all of them—and that is in relation to the 2014 review. The 2014 review will examine the likely effectiveness of the renewable energy target legislation in supporting deployment of renewable energy equivalent to 20 per cent of electricity demand by 2020. This would include consideration of actual deployment at that time, updated projections of renewable generation deployment and electricity demand, and any necessary adjustment to the target expressed in gigawatt hours. That was the government’s response to the amendments (8) and (14) on sheet 5816 revised.

In relation to the amendments on sheet 5887, the contents of which I think Senator Brown was referring to, can I say that this was raised with us this morning by Senator Milne. There is some merit in the matters raised by the Greens on this issue. I would like to indicate that we are prepared, as the government, to consider introducing a measure for off-grid power systems. We do think, after considering this issue in recent hours, that there are a range of policy issues which would merit full consideration of this matter before being put to parliament. We propose to refer this issue to the COAG review of small-scale technologies which can consider the desirability, the measure, and information on the extent to which this benefits remote communities including, in particular, Indigenous communities.

The review would take into account the experience with the renewable remote power generation program. It would also assess whether some of the parameters of that program are still relevant. For example, there are issues relating to the definition of remoteness from the grid, the costs of connection and the costs of both small-scale renewable technologies and other power generation technologies. The government would need to ensure that the level of any assistance contemplated is commensurate with contemporary and likely future trends in key costs. Finally, the review would need to consider the implications for the renewable energy target as a whole consistent with its focus on other small-scale technologies.

So, as I said, we think there is some merit in the policy issues raised. We would like to consider some of the issues I have raised more closely in a measured and timely manner, and I have indicated to the chamber that we propose to look at this through the COAG review process.