Plea for states to stand united on re­new­ables

The Australian - - THE NATION - SA­MAN­THA HUTCHIN­SON VIC­TO­RIAN PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER

Pow­er­ful in­dus­try groups across the ce­ment, meat pro­cess­ing and food and gro­ceries in­dus­tries say state-based re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets in Vic­to­ria, Queens­land and the ACT will add un­nec­es­sary com­plex­ity and costs to busi­nesses, as all states work to­wards a na­tional en­ergy guar­an­tee.

As state en­ergy min­is­ters pre­pare for the Coun­cil of Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ments meet­ing on Fri­day where they will de­cide if work will con­tinue on the guar­an­tee, the two states and the ACT are stand­ing firm on keep­ing their own, stand­alone re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets.

Queens­land is pur­su­ing a tar­get of 50 per cent by 2030, while Vic­to­ria seeks a 40 per cent tar­get by 2025. The ACT wants a 100 per cent RET by 2025.

But a host of large-scale in­dus­try groups that fear the state-based RETs will com­pli­cate the na­tional ap­proach and trig­ger higher en­ergy costs, have im­plored the states not to splin­ter and to in­stead, stick to a sin­gle na­tional frame­work.

“We’ve al­ready seen what hap­pens when states pur­sue dif­fer­ent strate­gies, and it’s ob­vi­ous we need a sin­gle, united ap­proach,” Ce­ment Con­crete and Ag­gre­gates Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Kim Slat­tery said.

“Hav­ing these in­di­vid­ual tar­gets in ad­di­tion to the broader frame­work will just cre­ate du­pli­ca­tion, con­fu­sion and through that du­pli­ca­tion you have ad­di­tional costs. We need a sin­gle na­tional frame­work.”

The Aus­tralian Food and Gro­cery Coun­cil backed the call, ar­gu­ing that in­dus­try mem­bers needed cer­tainty, and state-based frame­works com­pro­mised that.

“Where en­ergy pol­icy has worked well in the past is when states have come to­gether. Where it has failed is when they pur­sue their own in­ter­ests, lead­ing to a lack of co-or­di­na­tion and cer­tainty, which has driven up en­ergy prices,” gro­cery coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive James Mathews said.

Meat pro­ces­sors rep­re­sented by the Aus­tralian Meat In­dus­try Coun­cil said they were par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about how state­based re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets could skew in­vest­ment.

Sev­eral pro­ces­sors have in­vested in their own en­ergy sources, such as co­gen­er­a­tion plants or bio­fuel cap­ture, but are un­cer­tain about the eco­nom­ics of their in­vest­ment be­cause of un­cer­tainty about the price of re­new­ables, meat coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Patrick Hutchin­son said.

“While the states and ter­ri­to­ries muck about on who has the best en­ergy pol­icy, the com­pa­nies that are em­ploy­ing the lo­cals are shoul­der­ing the bur­den and in­vest­ing in their own en­ergy sup­ply, but they’ve got no cer­tainty about the fu­ture of the in­vest­ment,” Mr Hutchin­son said.

Some en­ergy ex­perts have warned that ag­gres­sive re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets could put larger coal and gas-fired power plants out of busi­ness, trig­ger­ing higher prices and more in­ter­mit­tent elec­tric­ity across the board, as they had in South Aus­tralia.

Mr Slat­tery said any ad­di­tional price drops in states with their own re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets — be­yond what the guar­an­tee could de­liver — was likely to be “wish­ful think­ing”.

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