Un­cer­tain months ahead pend­ing poll

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Clean Energy - Re­becca Weisser

AWA­TER­SHED has been reached on cli­mate change pol­icy in Aus­tralia with both sides of pol­i­tics com­mit­ting to a car­bon emis­sions trad­ing regime. loom­ing elec­tion al­ways casts doubt over what the fu­ture holds and in the light of cur­rent opin­ion polls, it is pos­si­ble that there might be a change of gov­ern­ment. The forth­com­ing bal­lot is shap­ing up as a de facto ref­er­en­dum on who can be trusted to man­age the eco­nomics of cli­mate change and the whole sub­ject has be­come highly charged. Yet, while there are dif­fer­ences in approach be­tween the gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion and crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion is still to be pro­vided by both sides, busi­ness and in­dus­try has been given a greater de­gree of cer­tainty in for­ward plan­ning re­gard­less of who wins the next elec­tion.

On the one hand, the Prime Min­is­ter an­nounced on June 3 that he would en­dorse the re­port of a task group of busi­ness lead­ers and de­part­men­tal heads on a na­tional car­bon emis­sions trad­ing sys­tem. Work will be­gin im­me­di­ately on the sys­tem which will come into force no later than 2012 with an as­pi­ra­tional tar­get to be set next year that will be reached by 2050 and in­terim tar­gets to be set in 2010.

On the other hand, the leader of the op­po­si­tion, Kevin Rudd, to­gether with the states and ter­ri­to­ries, has com­mis­sioned ANU eco­nomics pro­fes­sor and for­mer am­bas­sador to China, Ross Gar­naut, to ex­am­ine the im­pact of cli­mate change on the Aus­tralian econ­omy and the cost of in­ac­tion — an Aus­tralian Stern Re­view — which will be re­leased on 30 Septem­ber 2008. Fed­eral La­bor has al­ready com­mit­ted to set­ting up a na­tional emis­sions trad­ing scheme and cut­ting Aus­tralia’s green­house gas emis­sions by 60 per cent on 2000 lev­els by 2050 but won’t re­veal in­terim tar­gets un­til it has re­ceived the Gar­naut re­port.

A key dif­fer­ence be­tween the Coali­tion and La­bor is that the lat­ter are com­mit­ted to manda­tory re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets and to rul­ing out the use of nu­clear power whereas the gov­ern­ment scheme will al­low busi­ness and in­dus­try to choose what­ever en­ergy source they deem best pro­vided it re­duces emis­sions. La­bor is also com­mit­ted to sign­ing the Ky­oto Pro­to­col whereas the Coali­tion have pledged to meet their Ky­oto tar­gets but see the Ky­oto agree­ment as fa­tally flawed be­cause it does not in­clude ma­jor emit­ters such as the US, China and In­dia.

Over­all, the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has al­lo­cated $ 2.8 bil­lion to a cli­mate change strat­egy that has three prongs: to re­duce Aus­tralia’s green­house gas emis­sions; to en­able Aus­tralia to adapt to a chang­ing cli­mate; and to build an ef­fec­tive global re­sponse to cli­mate change. The Gov­ern­ment has iden­ti­fied a mix of vol­un­tary and manda­tory ac­tions for the in­dus­trial sec­tor to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions with­out sti­fling eco­nomic growth by in­creas­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and us­ing lower emis­sion en­ergy.

The Low Emis­sions Tech­nol­ogy Demon­stra­tion fund sup­ports in­dus­try in­vest­ment in tech­nolo­gies that could re­duce the long- term green­house in­ten­sity of en­ergy pro­duc­tion and use. The Gov­ern­ment has al­lo­cated $ 500m to lever­age $ 1 bil­lion from the private sec­tor. For ex­am­ple, CS En­ergy at Biloela, in cen­tral Queens­land has been given a $ 50m grant to retro­fit the Cal­lide power plant and demon­strate black coal oxy- fuel com­bus­tion with car­bon diox­ide cap­ture and stor­age. HRL is part­ner­ing with Harbin Power En­gi­neer­ing ( HPE), a sub­sidiary of one of the largest power equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers in China, to demon­strate in­te­grated dry­ing and gasi­fi­ca­tion of coal at Loy Yang Bench in the La­trobe Val­ley, Vic­to­ria, with po­ten­tial car­bon cap­ture and stor­age. And a $ 75m grant has been made to a large scale So­lar Con­cen­tra­tor at a 154MW power plant in north west­ern Vic­to­ria.

The Green­house Chal­lenge Plus pro­gram is a part­ner­ship be­tween in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment to man­age and re­port green­house gas emis­sions. Since its in­cep­tion it has achieved al­most com­plete cov­er­age of emis­sions from key sec­tors such as ce­ment, alu­minium and pe­tro­leum re­fin­ing; and sig­nif­i­cant cov­er­age of power gen­er­a­tion, min­ing and oil and gas ex­plo­ration. The pro­gram has re­sulted in more than 760 agree­ments with in­dus­try par­tic­i­pants cov­er­ing al­most 50 per cent of green­house emis­sions from Aus­tralian in­dus­try and has re­ported over 40 mil­lion tonnes of abate­ment since 1995.

The Green­house Friendly pro­gram al­lows busi­nesses to mar­ket green­house neu­tral prod­ucts or ser­vices. Three en­ergy com­pa­nies have achieved Green­house Friendly car­bon neu­tral ac­cred­i­ta­tion for their prod­ucts: AGL Green­bal­ance elec­tric­ity; Ori­gin En­ergy GreenEarth Gas; and Syn­ergy Earth Friendly Power. Other com­pa­nies to be car­bon neu­tral ac­cred­ited for their prod­ucts and ser­vices in­clude: Chan­nel 7 Sun­rise; Re­newtek; BP Global Choice fuel prod­ucts; two Du­lux paint prod­ucts; and Mys­tique print­ers.

The Re­new­able En­ergy De­vel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive sup­ports re­new­able en­ergy ini­tia­tives and 25 com­pa­nies have re­ceived grants cov­er­ing a wide range of tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing so­lar, biomass, geo­ther­mal, wind and waste. The So­lar Cities pro­gram is sup­port­ing large scale tri­als in Ade­laide, Townsville, Black­town and Alice Springs to test the costs and ben­e­fits of re­spon­sive en­ergy pric­ing, mass in­stal­la­tion of so­lar en­ergy tech­nol­ogy, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency mea­sures and smart me­ters. Min­i­mum En­ergy Per­for­mance Stan­dards is a pro­gram that phases out a grow­ing range of in­ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances and equip­ment such as in­can­des­cent light bulbs which will be­gin to dis­ap­pear from shops in Aus­tralia in 2009. The Gen­er­a­tor Ef­fi­ciency Stan­dards en­cour­ages elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tors to move to best prac­tice in en­ergy gen­er­a­tion by 2010. En­ergy ef­fi­ciency mea­sures have been in­cluded in the Build­ing Code of Aus­tralia for new res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial build­ings.

If there is a change of gov­ern­ment the Fed­eral La­bor party has com­mit­ted to a num­ber of mea­sures. Th­ese in­clude set­ting up a $ 500m Na­tional Clean Coal Fund; set­ting up a $ 500m Green Car In­no­va­tion Fund de­signed to gen­er­ate $ 2 bil­lion to se­cure jobs in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try and tackle cli­mate change by man­u­fac­tur­ing low emis­sion ve­hi­cles in Aus­tralia; sub­stan­tially in­creas­ing the Manda­tory Re­new­able En­ergy Tar­get; pro­vid­ing $ 300 mil­lion in low in­ter­est rate loans to help make ex­ist­ing homes greener and more en­ergy and wa­ter ef­fi­cient; fund­ing the $ 50m so­lar Home Power Plan, to al­low about 12,000 Aus­tralian house­holds to in­stall so­lar pan­els; and mak­ing half of all Com­mon­wealth cars en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly by 2020.

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