Experts say Australia’s policy on renewable energy stifles investments in the sector


California-based renewable energy company Solar Reserve has abandoned plans to develop electricity plants for the public market in Australia because of the Government’s hostile policy towards renewable energy.

Image credit: flickr User: Ben Stuart
Image credit: flickr User: Ben Stuart

According to the article on ABC, the appointment of Dick Warburton — who doubts that carbon emission are causing global warming — to lead a review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) and the imminent scrapping of the carbon tax have discouraged Solar Reserve from realising its ambition to produce electricity for the retail market in Australia.

“That policy change pretty much took the life out of the renewable energy sector as far as large-scale projects for utility applications [are concerned]. Other markets around the world are advancing. Australia is going to get left behind,” Kevin Smith, Chief Executive at Solar Reserve, told the ABC’s Four Corners program.

“Clearly [Mr Warburton’s] appointment was made because they want to move back towards conventional fuels, coal and oil. It’s pretty clear that the policy in Australia is now being centred around big coal. The coal industry clearly has rallied to move policy away from renewable energies because they view renewable energy as a threat and want to move back to convention coal.”

The Australian Government has announced plans in the budget to scrap the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and has moved to scrap the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation; however, it is having a tough time winning support for the changes in the Senate.

The country’s policy towards renewable energy is in sharp contrast to the one across the Pacific, where authorities have increased the renewable energy target to 33% by 2020, attracting significant investments in the sector.

“Today in California, we have the largest geothermal power plant in the world, the largest wind power plant in the world, the largest solar thermal power plant in the world [and] the largest solar PV power plant in the world. The largest manufacturing operation in the state of California today is an electric car company,” said California Energy Commissioner David Hochschild.

“When you establish a long-term policy with certainty it’s actually pretty clear what happens. Investors see that opportunity. They open their pocketbooks, they write the cheques, you get investment in innovation and you get to scale and that brings down prices.”

Mr Hochschild described the direction of policy in Australia as disappointing.

“I really feel Australia’s starting to actually fight the future and it seems like a mistake to me for a country with such a wealth of natural renewable energy resources,” he said.

“You look at the potential of wind and solar and tidal resources there — it’s really unmatched in the world, and so it seems to me Australia really could be a leader internationally if the country set itself on that path.”