Australia thumbs its nose at global renewable energy market

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Australia has again courted controversy on the international stage, sending an embassy staffer instead of its energy minister to the annual congress of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Shades of Warsaw and its decision to snub the climate change conference – another international policy arena it seeks to avoid.

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Australia has again courted controversy on the international stage, refusing to send its energy minister to a key meeting of the world’s peak renewable energy body, and sending instead a mere embassy staffer to the annual congress of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

irena mapIRENA met in Abu Dhabi last weekend, ahead of the World Energy Future Conference in the same venue. Some 150 members sent delegates and 65 of those countries sent their energy ministers. The heads of numerous energy companies, and financing chiefs also attended.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, perhaps, given the Coalition government’s antipathy to renewables, and its attempts to wind back or even cancel its current renewable energy target. The Abbott government has ensured that the large scale renewable energy industry in Australia has come to a virtual standstill, just as global investment in renewables increases.

The decision to snub IRENA’s annual conference is being seen in the same vein as its decision not to send a minister to the climate change talks in Warsaw in late 2013. It has angered and surprised some here, although the truth is that Australia – as in the climate space where it has also reversed course – is now seen as something of a no-hoper and an outlier in terms of large scale renewable energy.

Having become the first country to dump a carbon price in 2014, Australia has toyed with the idea of becoming the first to dump its renewable energy target. It appointed a pro-nuclear climate denier to head a review of the renewable energy target, and the result has been policy gridlock and virtually no investment in large scale renewables in Australia in 2014.

Financiers have declared Australia to be effectively a “dead” market. It is now ranked last in terms of climate and clean energy policies. Many companies and financiers have turned their attention elsewhere, although some project developers remain in the hope that some policy certainty can return, and some of the $20 billion in projects can be unlocked, along with thousands of jobs.

irenaARENA director general Adnan Amin said it was disappointing that Australia did not send a senior representative to the Abu Dhabi conference.

“Personally it is disappointing because I like Australia and I would love to see more of them,” Amin, a seasoned UN diplomat who has been in this post for four years, told RenewEconomy.

“We are still hopeful that the rational business case that renewables presents will make sense to Australia.There is enough people making money in Australia who have an interest in growing renewables , and there is enough interest in developing a clean energy mix. We are hopeful that the government will continue to support renewables in the future.”

Earlier, Amin was asked what has holding some governments back – ideology, the power of incumbency, or, as he had noted in a keynote speech earlier in the week, a lack of knowledge about the cost of renewables.

“I think that regardless of ideology, most governments in modern age behave rationally. You have (in Australia) a government that is supposed to be business friendly; you have the potential of big business from renewables. So we think there should be a natural fit.

“At the same time, there are strong voices, not only in Australia but in other countries, that don’t believe in having a policy on climate change that imposes limitations on industry.” He noted that in the US, where both the climate and clean energy issues had become partisan – as they have in Australia – their were huge sums being donated to Republican Party by the fossil fuel industry.

Still, those governments and economies that misread the trends in renewables are likely to miss out. Amin said preliminary data from IRENA indicated that global investment in renewable energy jumped 15 per cent in 2014 to more than $US260 billion, despite the austerity of some budgets.

But there was a bigger change taking place.

Amin said it was clear that renewable energy technologies were now competing with fossil fuels in many parts of the world, and seismic shifts were taking place in the structure of the industry, from a centralized to a distributed model.

He pointed to new major new developments as “postcards” from the future. He cited the decision by E.ON, the biggest utility in Europe, to shed its conventional energy assets (nuclear and coal) into a new company that would diminish over time, and focus instead on renewables, storage and micro-grids.

He also pointed to the record-breaking price for a 200MW solar plant to be built in Dubai, which at a rate of 5.84c/kWh was one third cheaper than gas fired generation that dominated the local market. That has helped inspire the emirate to lift its renewable energy target to 15 per cent by 2030. It plans another tender of 500MW of solar PV in 2016.

“The old model is stagnating. Change is coming and it is going to be dramatic,” Amin says.

 

 

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22 Comments
  1. Peter Grant 4 years ago

    Thanks for your coverage from the middle east Giles.

    This Governments is an outlier on renewables, but hopefully Abbots inexorable transformation from rooster to feather duster between Warsaw and now, diminish the diplomatic poignancy of Australia’s spoiling in the climate and energy space.

  2. john 4 years ago

    All I can say is.
    We don’t want no education no no no
    What a bunch of fools they are to pander to the lowest common denominator such is life.
    I feel ashamed for that country what a bunch of low level achievers.

    • The Green Lantern 4 years ago

      Amazing to think, before Howard became PM, Australia was one of the leading nations in renewable energy development.

      Now it’s the exact opposite.

  3. lifeboatman 4 years ago

    It is plainly obvious that as long as Oz has an Abbott led coalition government, renewable energy will remain in the Doldrums, irrespective of the damage such policies are having on the economy. His interests seem to parallel those of the coal industry, and it is interesting that in the Finance segment of the ABC 7.0 pm news, whilst other mineral prices are given, coal is never mentioned! Presumably because it would be too embarrassing for the general public to see that Abbott is betting the economy on a loser.
    However, a gentle breeze has started to blow inasmuch that there appears to be dissension in the liberal household about the direction he is taking the party. I suspect that as the public becomes more aware on what is happening on the Renewable Economy and Global Warming fronts world wide, and other events closer to home, the breeze will increase sufficiently to blow him away in a cloud of coal dust.
    The sooner the better for Oz.

    • Harry Verberne 4 years ago

      I wonder if the anti-renewable attitude will change if/when Abbott loses his grip on the PM job. I tend to think that the LNP has essentially been “captured” by both the IPA and the FF lobbies. We may soon find out?

      • mike flanagan 4 years ago

        I fear you are right there Harry. The current election campaign for the Liberal Party president in Victoria confirms your view.

  4. Alen T 4 years ago

    There is no doubt that Abbott is/has ruined the renewable sector in Oz, but it’s worthy noting that it is Labor’s incompetence that is permitting the LNP to get away with these actions, basically with no repercussion. I want to see some leadership, some vision for the future. Last election the LNP won essentially because people voted and wanted Labor out, not because they were overly fond of the LNP. It seems Labor is happy to see this happen again, but with the parties switched. Is it too much for me to ask for more, for a party to earn my vote through positive and promising policies, and not purely rely on me voting for them because I’m frustrated with its opposition?

  5. bedlambay 4 years ago

    Toxic Tony should be gone by mid year and hopefully either Turnbull or Bishop will turn the LNP policy 180 degrees.

    • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

      Keep dreaming. LNP still owes many individuals like Murdoch for the election victory and destroying RE and Energy Efficiency programs and things like NBN, Medicare, Education will remain an article of faith for the Libs. People think Turnbull is some kind of a moderate just cause he talks noice on TV, not buying it. Greg Hunt seems irreversibly brain damaged since talking the Environment Portfolio so not much hope there. Minister for Industry and (ignoring) Science MacFarlane: as ex-Minister Ferguson said is one of the FF club.

    • mike flanagan 4 years ago

      While finding Turnbull’s backbone may prove difficult, Bishop is the architect of Abbott sabotage policies at all international fora on Climate Change, that a major part of our overseas aid and DFAT budget is expended.

      • bedlambay 4 years ago

        Bishop is just being directed by Abbott. She was a hopeless shadow economics/finance minister with a glass jaw. I always thought that the party had moved so far to the right that Turnbull had no chance of leadership. But LNP is now really desperate.

  6. Alexander Dudley 4 years ago

    I wonder how much market share and how many jobs Australia has missed out on under LNP “policy”? I wonder how long it will take for us to catch up with the rest of the world, and at what cost to our environment and health as subsidised coal mines continue to operate? And when these coal companies go broke, as they will, who will pay the massive cost of rehabilitation? The disregard with which the LNP hold the future and the environment borders on sociopathic and reeks of corruption. I weep for this country.

  7. John P 4 years ago

    Australia’s reputation is poor, even though most Australians prefer using renewables. Numerous polls and the wide uptake of rooftop solar make this plain. Our bad image is due to a small fraction of the nation – the Liberal party and their corporate funding groups. Sadly, it is not encouraging to think that a new government will make much difference. To a certain extent, Labor talks positively but history shows that they also do not want to take any action that might degrade our extensive exports of fossil resources.

  8. onesecond 4 years ago

    Vote Green. Germany has done it and it did the trick.

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