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Tony Abbott gets it wrong on wind farms and renewables

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Tony Abbott has made his first comments on wind energy and the Renewable Energy Target as Prime Minister. During an interview with Alan Jones (2GB) PM Abbott had the following to say:

“If you drive down the Federal Highway from Goulburn to Canberra and you look at Lake George, yes there’s an absolute forest of these things on the other side of the lake near Bungendore. I absolutely understand why people are anxious about these things that are sprouting like mushrooms all over the fields of our country. I absolutely understand the concerns that people have.

“And I also understand the difficulty because while renewable power is a very good idea at one level, you’ve gotta have backups because when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the power doesn’t flow. So this is an obvious problem with renewable energy in the absence of much more sophisticated battery technology than we have right now.

“We are going to review the Renewable Energy Targets. There was going to be a review anyway next year. We’re taking this review very seriously and one of the things that we’ll be looking at will be the impact of renewable energy on power prices, because not only is the carbon tax adding about 9 per cent to everyone’s power bills and we’re going to get rid of that as quickly as we can, renewable energy targets are also significantly driving up power prices right now.”

The Prime Minister cites two common misperceptions about renewables energy: Firstly, that renewables aren’t up for the job of powering the Australian economy because they’re intermittent. And secondly, that the Renewable Energy Target makes up a significant portion of electricity bills.

Let’s break down these misconceptions for the Prime Minister to assist his government’s energy policy making.

Misconception #1: Australia needs backup for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

Reality: It is technically feasible for Australia to meet it’s electricity needs from renewable energy alone.

According to the energy experts, shifting to 100 percent renewable energy is both technically viable and affordable. Studies by the think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (PDF), and follow up studies from the Australian Energy Market Operator (PDF) and University of New South Wales (PDF) confirm the technical feasibility of renewable energy. In terms of cost, the 100 percent renewable energy system ischeaper the fossil fuel based business-as-usual approach.

Modelling is one thing, what about real world applications?

South Australia is leading the nation with it’s renewable energy rollout. The state now meets 31 percent of it’s electricity demand from renewable energy sources. Wind farms are doing the heavy lifting, providing 27 percent, while the rapidly growing rooftop solar contributes 4 percent. South Australia is expected to reach 50 percent renewables in a decade.

Misconception #2: Renewable energy is a significant part of power bills, driving up costs. 

Reality: John Howard’s Renewable Energy Target makes up a small portion of Australian power bills. The rollout of renewable energy is making power bills cheaper.

Data from the Australian Energy Market Commission (PDF) shows the RET accounts for less than one percent of the average household electricity bill – or a mere $35 from a $2000 bill. That’s around $0.70 each week over a year. It is transmission, distribution, and wholesale electricity prices which are the largest contributors to power bills.

AEMC

The Australian Energy Market Commission shows transmission, distribution, and wholesale electricity prices are the largest contributors to power bills.

Renewable energy is putting downward pressure on power bills. Energy analysts agree wind farms are causing South Australia’s wholesale electricity prices to drop. This trend resulted in the SA Essential Services Commission directing energy companies to cut retail prices cut by 8.1 percent. The move will lower the average power bill by $160 a year.

So, what are Australians getting for their $35 investment in renewable energy? Cheaper bills, less pollution, and action on climate change. Most Australians would agree that’s a win, win.

Liberals can lead on renewable energy…

Prime Minister Tony Abbott can take leadership on renewable energy. The PM can back John Howard’s Renewable Energy Target, deliver more renewable energy and cheaper power bills for Australians.

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Retired Liberal Sentaor Peter Rae is a renewable energy expert.

Retired Liberal Senator for Tasmania, Peter Rae shows you can be a proud Liberal and a strong supporter of renewable energy. Mr Rae believes the Liberal party has a tradition to uphold when it comes to supporting renewable energy.

Mr Rae was vice president of the World Wind Energy Association (now honorary VP) and is Vice Chairman of the International Renewable Energy Alliance, REN21. With impeccable renewable energy credentials, Mr Rae knows what he’s talking about. Perhaps the PM will draw on the expertise of Peter Rae when undertaking a review of the Renewable Energy Target next year.

Leigh Ewbank is Yes 2 Renewables community coordinator.

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  • sean

    It’s too bad there is such an oversupply of coal power plants in nsw. We might have a need for energy storage and then abbott’s line about needing backup wouldn’t be true.

  • juxx0r

    “less than one percent of the average household electricity bill – or a mere $35 from a $2000 bill”

    Those two numbers don’t agree with each other.

    • Martin

      The “less than one percent” refers to the RET. The $35 seems to refer to the combination of RET, state schemes and feed-in tariffs.

      According to the table, the RET share is projected to be 0.8% for this and next financial year, down from 1.0% over the previous two financial years. The cost of state schemes is also going down from 0.4% to 0.3%.

      The only renewables component that shows an increase is feed-in tariffs. The hike from 0.1% in 2011/12 to 0.7% in 2012/13 seems odd. Is there a sudden confusion between the original feed-in tariffs (i.e. premium payments per kWh exported) and the current system where the price paid per kWh is based on the wholesale price of electricity? Does this mean that the AEMC reckons PV owners should export electricity for free?

  • Chris Marshalk

    It seems some people can’t apply the smallest amount of logic or common sense to renewable technology. If you’re able to “produce” electricity “Free-of-charge” by means of solar or wind, then how can it “drive-up-costs” when there is no costs other then the infrastructure or initial set-up costs. It’s bread-n-butter service, set it-n-forget it. The Germans are doing it right, we should be following their stance on renewable energy.

  • Mick

    The “power distributors” will be the next razor gang to have a pop at those installing solar power at home. You can imagine them drawing up contracts and plans regarding how much you will have to pay so your solar pv system can be hooked up to the grid.
    It’s time more people started going off grid and telling them where to put their gold plated wires and cables.

  • Alan Baird

    If Tony Abbott doesn’t get it, you can be quite sure that it’s an affected and quite deliberate “misunderstanding”. He’s simply pandering to his real constituency, the owners of coal mines and generators (and related investors) who go by the quaint title, “rent seekers”, ie they’ve got an asset, and they want it to be continued to be the main game, and not some alternative bunch of gadgets that do it all for nearly nix. Besides, how an he make out that going to all the trouble of mining the stuff, transporting it, burning it and then laughably, not counting in the environmental cost is “sustainable” in the “we can do this for ever and ever” sense? That’s what the word “sustainable” is supposed to mean. And what about the “carbon capture and sequestration” that seems to have been forgotten in the rush? Another extra cost that can now be quietly disposed of. Coal is not cheap. It is STILL massively subsidised (by guess who) and neither side of politics, no matter what “budget emergency” could even consider touching this sacred cow. And which energy source is criticised in most media as being subsidised? Yep, Solar and wind… but the fossil fuel subsidy is the very large grey animal in the room which gets oh so blurry, especially from Canberra.

  • genie81

    Mr Abbott is following what the Senate asked for in 2011 and IGNORED. The NHMRC is misquoted by the Sociologist from Sydney Univ. read it carefully. Peer-reviewed evidence from overseas is also ignored when the reports are from experts in the field of acoustics and other issues on wind turbines. The European states are finding out how expensive and inefficient turbines and that the wind industry has known for years There are over 600 groups worldwide anti wind farms go EPAW.org also NApaw.org. YouTube Ill wind over Europe and Rare Earth Mineral Mining in China. SA and Victoria found out during very hot days that the turbines do not produce much electricity and require backup from coal or gas. RECs are given to the wind industry and most of the money they sell them for goes overseas companies.
    Wind energy at present cannot be stored so who is wasting money? People in cities mostly have no idea what people living near turbines have to put up with especially the noise. Infrasound is produced by turbines and during WW11 used as a form of torture and now days crowd control. do the RESEARCH and see properly what people worldwide have to endure. Turbines are being built bigger NOT BETTER. 150m are some for wind farms and these are 150m high when the Harbour Bridge is only 134m destroying prime agricultural land. Shortly you will paying for food from countries with poor farming practices and higher prices.