What hope green energy? Hockey says turbines “utterly offensive”

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The prospects of a re-start of large scale renewable energy projects in Australia dimmed further on Friday when Treasurer Joe Hockey described the sight of wind turbines as “utterly offensive.”

Joe Hockey: "Utterly offensive"

Joe Hockey: “Utterly offensive”

Hockey, speaking to ultra-conservative shock-jock Alan Jones on radio 2GB, said wind turbines were a “blight on the landscape” and vowed to axe “the vast number” of environmental agencies

Hockey’s comments were made after Jones asked him about the “nonsense” of climate change, and renewable energy policies, and asked why – when the government had rejected support for SPC Admona and car makers – was it “chasing” Thai and Chinese-made wind turbines.

This is the conversation from there:

Hockey: “If I can be a little indulgent, I drive to Canberra to go to parliament and I must say I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive.”

Jones: “Correct.”

Hockey: “I think they’re just a blight on the landscape.”

Jones: “Correct. The people you are talking to are paying for them. When are you going to knock them off?”

Hockey: (chuckling) “Well, we can’t knock those ones off, they are into locked into a scheme. There is a certain contractual obligation, I’m told, associated with those things. But you will see in the  budget we will address the massive duplication that you have talked about, the vast number of agencies involved in the same thing. We have considered that very carefully. When I say we’ve seen the age of entitlement, that applies to business as much as it applies to the rest of us.”

Hockey also told Jones that the government would cut a swathe through environmental agencies, including, he said, the Clean Energy Regulator, which environment minister Greg Hunt says we need to manage and operate the emissions reduction fund in the ludicrous Direct Action scheme.

Hockey probably meant the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Attention to detail has not been the government’s strong point, and it has been determined to dismantle any authority or scheme with the words “clean” or “climate” or “carbon” in front of it – the carbon price, the Climate Commission, the Climate Change Authority – even the Cleantech awards had to be renamed.

The CEFC,  along with the Export Finance Investment Corporation, attracts private funds, and delivers a positive return to the government. But even EFIC has been slated for closure in what the AFR’s Chanticleer columnist described as one of a series of “brain explosions” from the Far Right revealed in the National Audit Commission.

capital wind farmThe wind turbines around Lake George that Hockey finds so offensive are part of Infigen Energy’s Capital wind farm (pictured). Neighbouring regions areas are a hot-bed of anti-wind farm activitism, particularly from business leaders such as Maurice Newman, Abbott’s hand-picked head of his business advisory body.

Local state MP Pru Goward, the newly appointed  minister of planning for NSW, has described wind turbines as “hideous”, and federal MP Angus Taylor is one of the many fierce opponents of wind farms in the Coalition. Amid all this, the ACT government is trying to commission 200MW of wind capacity as part of its plans to go 90 per cent renewable.

The federal government, on the other hand, appears comfortable with 90 per cent fossil fuels. It has commissioned a review panel to assess the renewable energy target, and has chosen a team led by climate change denier Dick Warburton, who has said that nuclear energy is the only viable alternative to coal, to make a judgement on the scheme that is designed to bring in more wind and solar energy to the energy system.

The constant uncertainty about green energy policy has meant that no new large scale wind farms have been committed in Australia since 2012 – apart from some solar farms supported by other schemes, and the massive investment by Australian households in rooftop solar. The emergence of solar, and soon enough storage, as a cost competitive alternative to energy delivered through expensive networks, is causing Australia’s major utilities to reassess their business models, and the way they deliver electricity. However, they lament that politicians and regulators are looking to the past, rather than the future.

The fossil fuel industry, and other vested interests, have argued that all renewable support mechanisms should be dismantled, or at least vastly reduced, in order to protect the value of existing assets.

They have argued, as has Tony Abbott, that the renewables scheme is very expensive, even though regulators note that it adds only about 3 per cent to consumer bills.

The Clean Energy Council this week produced a report that suggested that the fall in wholesale prices caused by the influx of renewables would offset the cost of certificates and actually lead to cheaper bills for consumers in the medium to long term.

This assessment was rejected by Hunt this week. And in a further sign of the government’s, and the panel’s hard-line attitude to renewables, Warburton said a complete dismantling of the renewable energy target could not be ruled out, even though this would lead to billions of dollars in losses, and to the removal of the “contractual obligation” that Hockey appeared to lament.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is also in danger of having its funding stripped and of being absorbed back into a government department.

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  • Liza Neil

    Perhaps the drive to kill off renewables is a purposeful campaign to make them cheaper utilities for the big fossilised energy companies to buy, as they eventually are forced to transition to less-polluting technologies.

    • wideEyedPupil

      No it’s a purposeful campaign to keep them from being deployed because we have had falling energy demand on the grid since 2009/10. Without requiring utilities to purchase RET certificates or some similar mechanism there is absolutely zero incentive for anyone to build more wind power. That’s why they are trying to badge wind as “ugly”, they can’t beat it on facts. And badging is what the LNC do more than anything else.

  • Chris Fraser

    Though it’s just a view. Joe was talking on 2GB and every politician tailors their speech to their audience. However i see many cars stopped by the highway to check out the turbines on the far side of Lake George and they’re not offensive of hideous – they are graceful sublimations of sculpture and movement … even apart from attributes of what they do for us.

  • jdpipe

    Question would be: does he find the current shape of Hunter Valley or Morwell also to be “utterly offensive”? And if so, which is better?

    • Albert Sjoberg

      That was exactly my thought on reading this.
      Sure they are a blight and offensive when compared to pristine beaches, grasslands and rain forests.

      But the horrible scars of rock quarries, open cast coal mining and run-off from tracking operations are also a blight, and they blight of a wind farm, is not nearly equal to the blight of a coal fired power plant with coal storage.

  • Ian Garradd

    Jo and his cronies should take a drive past the hideous mess created by coal mining in the Hunter Valley.
    I think there is something beautiful about creating energy from wind. Turbines are elegant…akin to sailing boats.

    • Tommyk82 .

      I think they are the most majestic machines ever created. I feel hope and pride whenever I look at them.

  • madankerr

    Yes, this sounds like Joe making vague waffling sounds intended to appeal to the target audience. When he waffles about ‘massive duplication’ and ‘vast number of agencies’, he’s shoe-horning all agencies into the environmental box. It’s like saying “I don’t like wind turbines, and by the way we intend to privatise Defence Housing”.

  • Daniel Wright MacDonald

    All of the Renewable Energy Target Review campaigns in the one place at – head over there and make your voice heard.

    • Miles Harding

      Time to get writing and produce a submission for the RET review!!!

  • merritimes

    i guess joe gets pretty excited when he sees a coal-fired power station.

  • howardpatr

    Seems like Jo has had Angus Taylor, the Member for Hume, ranting in his ear about the evils of wind turbines?

    • markz

      If Dick Warburton doesn’t like wind farms, then Joe certainly won’t like them. I am sure Joe would still be capable of independent thought, but no point going there if the when anti-renewable ideology trumps science.

  • Beat Odermatt

    Have these idiots ever worked in a coal mine? Is a huge open pit full of dust and smoke more attractive then windmills? Who is going to pay for the $50 Billion liability caused by coal mines in regards to land and water rehabilitation, coal and shale fire control, acid water drainage, health costs due to coal dust etc.?

  • Peter

    Would Joe prefer living next to a coal mine, coal fired power plant or next to wind turbines?

    • Hayden

      If the age of entitlement really is over, does this spell the end for the massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industries ?

  • Alen

    Oh the present government is really building-up a reputation, and it’s shaping to be a memorable one indeed. Well at least no one can say the politics in Australia is boring. Between the events in NSW, the Dictator style governing of Newman in QLD and the weekly ridiculous new comments coming from the Federal government, we won’t need to spend much time watching TV anymore to get our entertainment fix.

    I don’t understand the big fuss about wind turbines, last time I was in Europe and drove past some turbines I did not mind their appearance at all, and I simply dont understand why they are considered such an eye sore and defined as a blight on the landscape.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Crikey! This dopey drongo should try driving to Canberra from the other direction. You see a drink can by the side of the road and you get excited because of the break in the monotony. A few wind turbines west of Canberra could only improve the landscape. How could Joe Hockey not know this? Does he even live in Australia?

    • wideEyedPupil

      Yeah he has a passion for denuded hills with all their life and forests removed, what a dick.

  • Christina Macpherson

    Dunno about youall, but I am finding Joe Hockey utterly offensive

  • Miles Harding

    Fair is Fair…

    Most of us find Joe Hockey utterly offensive!!

  • Tomagain
  • Tomagain