As­pire to do more not less


Shepparton News - - NEWS - By Thomas Moir

As de­bate on en­ergy prices and re­li­a­bil­ity pow­ers on na­tion­ally, lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment and en­ergy groups be­lieve rec­om­men­da­tions from a re­cent re­view by Aus­tralia’s chief sci­en­tist could be more as­pi­ra­tional.

Chief sci­en­tist Alan Finkel last week de­liv­ered to the gov­ern­ment a blue­print on how to end high elec­tric­ity bills, more fre­quent black­outs and higher emis­sions.

It cen­tred on a clean en­ergy tar­get for the elec­tric­ity sec­tor and new rules to make sure re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tors have bat­ter­ies or other backup to en­sure greater re­li­a­bil­ity.

Goul­burn Val­ley Com­mu­nity En­ergy chief ex­ec­u­tive Ge­off Lodge said Aus­tralia could do bet­ter and de­scribed the rec­om­men­da­tions as ‘‘soft’’, but still a step in the right di­rec­tion.

He ques­tioned the re­set­ting of clean en­ergy tar­gets and ‘‘wa­ter­ing down what state gov­ern­ments are al­ready do­ing’’.

Mr Lodge also stressed in­tro­duc­ing gas and coal plants as ‘‘clean en­ergy’’ was ir­re­spon­si­ble and counter pro­duc­tive.

‘‘This is about phas­ing in of re­new­able en­ergy.

‘‘To have in that same process a mech­a­nism that’s pro­vid­ing sub­si­dies for new coal plants, new gas and even ex­ist­ing gas plants, they’re all sub­ject to the def­i­ni­tion of clean en­ergy.

‘‘And the sub­si­dies that go with it and in my view that’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate.’’

La­bor has of­fered cau­tious bi­par­ti­san­ship on it but seems likely to draw the line on set­ting the emis­sions level high enough to in­clude coal.

But some on the gov­ern­ment benches will only sup­port a pol­icy which en­cour­ages con­tin­ued coal­fired gen­er­a­tion.

Mr Lodge said by sub­si­dis­ing new coal and gas plants, the na­tion would be lock­ing in pol­lut­ing gen­er­a­tors for decades, de­scrib­ing it as ‘‘not smart’’.

He also ques­tioned ‘‘im­pli­ca­tions’’ wind and so­lar were less re­li­able than gas and coal by need­ing stor­age ca­pac­ity, adding ‘‘go­ing soft on the elec­tric­ity sec­tor’’ would ap­ply pres­sure to other ar­eas like agri­cul­ture and trans­porta­tion for re­gional ar­eas like Shep­par­ton.

The Goul­burn Val­ley En­vi­ron­ment Group’s John Pet­ti­grew re­mained un­con­vinced the find­ings were the ‘‘to­tal an­swer’’, but be­lieved enough con­sen­sus ex­isted for it to re­ceive po­lit­i­cal sup­port.

Mr Pet­ti­grew hoped party pol­i­tics would not weaken the rec­om­men­da­tions put for­ward.

‘‘We think it’s a foun­da­tion to work from,’’ he said.

‘‘We un­for­tu­nately have been heav­ily de­pen­dent on coal, it does make the change a lit­tle more com­pli­cated.’’

He be­lieved the Goul­burn Val­ley was ca­pa­ble of play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role in re­new­able en­ergy and dis­tri­bu­tion in the fu­ture, be­ing ‘‘a heavy pro­ducer of power’’.

We can do bet­ter: Goul­burn Val­ley Com­mu­nity En­ergy chief ex­ec­u­tive Ge­off Lodge.

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