Another week of Australian politics has drawn to a close and instead of delivering a watered down, but legislated, Renewable Energy Target to an industry in desperate need of investment certainty, it has delivered yet more uncertainty, wrapped in red tape.
As we reported yesterday, a leaked draft letter from the federal environment minister to anti-wind cross-bench Senators has proposed the appointment of a “windfarm commissioner” to handle complaints about turbine noise, as well as a new scientific committee to investigate, again, their alleged impacts on human health; as well as to promote start-up grants for solar and to encourage the CEFC to favour solar over wind energy.
Talks are now expected to continue through the weekend, with Fairfax media today quoting one of those anti-wind cross-benchers, Senator David Leyonhjelm, as saying components of the leaked draft letter had since changed – and that he and some other anti-wind senators were not convinced the government’s proposed measures to strangle wind energy development went far enough. There is still talk of tighter rules and even a “cap” on wind, and of more delays to the RET.
As well as inspiring a new thread of Twitter satire (see below or search #allthecommissioners), the Abbott government anti-wind proposals have stunned, angered and disappointed the renewables industry and its supporters in equal measure.
Here is a round-up of some of the responses:
“It’s disappointing that there is a move to introduce further red tape on an industry that is already heavily regulated,” said Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton. “This is clearly politically motivated and without any scientific basis. “The wind energy sector has undergone nine reviews or inquiries over the past five years. While the industry is open to a reasonable level of public scrutiny, it is clear that the level of scrutiny and inquiry being directed at wind power is entirely disproportionate compared to other kinds of energy generation. Wind energy is among the safest forms of electricity generation available globally.”
“The commitments made by Minister Hunt in this deal kowtows to anti-wind interests and will add fuel to the scare campaign against wind energy,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth‘s renewable energy spokesperson. “It’s astonishing that the minister responsible for our national response to climate change is complicit in efforts to demonise wind farms. The NHMRC, Victorian Department of Health, and Australian Medical Association have already given wind energy a clean bill of health. The public health impacts of coal are well-documented, yet the Abbott government is proposing to regulate clean and safe wind energy on health grounds. It’s the stuff of satire.
“The government can promise to take the senate wind inquiry seriously, yet the community will reject it. The inquiry is failing to compare wind energy to fossil fuels, or consider its contribution to job creation and tackling global warming.”
“If you are really worried about the health impacts of energy generation, where is the coal mining commissioner?” asked Greens Senator and environment spokesperson Larissa Waters. “Why do we have a wind farm commissioner rather than a coal mining commissioner to look at the health impacts of what is genuinely a damaging fossil fuel? …Unfortunately this is more of what can be expected from the Government’s tin foil hat brigade.”
“This is a bone which has been thrown to the independent senators, some of whom are frankly just obsessed by this issue,” said Professor of public health at Sydney University, Simon Chapman. “They have had 25 reviews which have said there is no direct affect of wind farms on health. Their heads are spinning with that [and] they just want one more, and Abbott’s given them one more.”
“I think its just going to be another annoyance factor,” said Labor climate spokesman Mark Butler. “The Labor Party will not be distracted from the main game which is getting legislation through the Parliament which will restore investor confidence.
…[Tony Abbott] does seem hell bent still on playing footsies with people who have purely ideological opposition to renewable energy. These are tokenistic gestures, they are a sideshow to the main game.”
“(This will) make a terrible deal even worse,” said Greens leader Richard di Natale. “Not only are we killing jobs and reducing renewable energy investment that’s good for our economy and good for the environment … we’re now introducing this pseudo-science that seems to be a feature of this government.
“We don’t have evidence of alien abduction – should we be spending public funds looking into it? No, we shouldn’t. Is there a credible, plausible mechanism through which wind farms might adversely impact on people’s health in the way that some of these extreme views might indicate? No there’s not.”
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