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Renewable energy pushed aside

14 May 2010 No Comment
Despite talks to counter climate change, the 2010 budget announcement by the Rudd Government has revealed that renewable energy is a low priority. Pia Volk reports.

Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. Image: End of Level Boss

Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. Image: End of Level Boss

Tuesday’s federal budget announcement which outlined a new Renewable Energy Future Fund is under scrutiny by climate activists for its insufficiency in targeting climate change.

The $652 million renewable energy fund is part of the $5.1 billion clean energy initiative introduced in last year’s budget to create a solar and coal energy flagships program for carbon caption storage.

“Interestingly and importantly, hardly any of that money has been spent,” said Tony Kevin, climate change writer and author of Crunch Time.

“When you read it closely, there is really not a lot of new money nor very much sign of new thinking on renewable energy. It’s a lot less than it appears at first sight.”

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Last week, the non-for-profit climate advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions sent a letter to Prime Minister Rudd appealing for greater investment in renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure.

Matthew Wright, CEO of Beyond Zero Emissions, said that the budget fell short of the required amount needed to create a nation building program such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.

South Australia’s Whyalla solar plant is expected to grow within the next three years and become Australia’s largest solar plant in which a total of 300 parabolic dishes will collect enough solar energy to power 9500 homes and reduce greenhouse gases by 60,000 tonnes a year.

But Mr Wright said the $230 million project is not enough. Although it is a “good innovation”, greater initiative must be taken to repower the economy.

“In terms of large scale renewables for repowering the economy, like what they’re doing in Germany, like what they’re doing in Spain, California, Nevada, Texas, there’s nothing like that happening (here). The government is really missing the bus on this one.”

Two years ago, the Rudd Government identified climate change as a fundamental problem but in last night’s address the issue was pushed aside as a core problem for the future.

Richard Dennis, director of the Australia Institute, said that this is because the government is no longer committed to action against climate change, highlighting that there needs to be some prioritising to address the more urgent problems.

“Last night while there were 600 million dollars for some new investment in renewable, there was 1.2 billion dollars or a 1.2 billion dollar increase in money for border protection.”

In addition, he said that polluters should be charged for the environmental damage they cause rather than have tax payers subsidising investment in renewable energy.

“There’s no problem with some subsidies for new technologies particularly emerging important technologies like wind and solar and GS thermal. But… the money should come from a carbon price paid for by the polluters.”

“If the government was courageous enough to introduce a carbon price, then we can be bringing in enormous amounts of money while simultaneously discouraging people from relying on polluting forms of energy and encouraging people to use the cleaner form.”

Is it feasible? Peter Kevin does not think so.

“The status quo of the protected position of the coal industry in Australia’s energy generation network remains, unfortunately.”

“No major party seems to care that the next generation of Australians is going to face a seriously warmer, hotter, and less productive country with rising sea levels.”

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