Federal Labor spokesperson for climate and energy, Chris Bowen, has accused the Morrison government of being ‘prejudiced’ against clean energy, saying it was missing major opportunities to drive new jobs and investment in the sector.
Bowen said that while Australia was making world-leading investments in rooftop solar, he blamed Morrison government for a lack of investment in the infrastructure needed to support higher uptake of renewables, and raised concerns about proposals to levy a tax on exports from rooftop solar.
His comments came after federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor had talked up the rate of investment in clean energy technologies, and particularly rooftop solar.
“With the significant changes underway in our electricity system, we are committed to reforms that are in the best interests of consumers of energy,” Taylor said in a pre-recorded address to the conference in Sydney (parliament is sitting in Canberra).
Taylor also flagged that the Morrison government would progress a series of energy market reforms, including a potential new mechanism to pay ageing coal generators to delay early plant closures.
“These reforms are necessary to ensure that as the share of renewables continues to grow at a pace in our system, consumers continue to have access to the lowest cost, reliable path,” he said.
“We need balance. We need to ensure that renewables are complemented by sufficient reliable generation like gas, pumped hydro and batteries.”
Bowen said the proposed solar export tariff needed to be abandoned.
“[This has] arisen because of the Commonwealth Government vacating the field when it comes to making sure our energy system and grid is up to scratch,” he said.
“It is thanks to Australian households and businesses that we lead the world in rooftop solar. Households and businesses have made this sound investment and it cuts emissions on behalf of a government that has no policy to otherwise do so.
“I’m really concerned about sending a price signal that would act as a disincentive to people thinking about investing in solar, particularly when under this government, it’s one of the only areas where emissions are coming down.”
“I hope the proposal to levy a charge on owners of solar power, and they feed into the grid is rethought and abandoned,” Bowen added.
Bowen also highlighted a number of missed opportunities of the Morrison government space, including the intervention of resources minister Keith Pitt to veto a federal government loan to a North Queensland wind and storage project.
Bowen said Pitt’s veto of a proposed loan to the Kaban green energy hub from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility was indicative a new level of ‘prejudice’ being shown by the Morrison government against clean energy. The Kaban project, being developed by Neoen, will pair a 157MW with a 100MW big battery.
“Now, ideology isn’t the right word for this, (that would) imply there’s some sort of coherent or logical reasoning behind a decision. But this isn’t ideology. It is just prejudice, prejudice against clean energy that is costing jobs.”
The Coalition’s latest federal budget delivered on Tuesday included little by way of support for driving increased clean energy uptake, or the adoption of electric vehicles, but delivered funding for new gas infrastructure and initiatives that focus on addressing the symptoms of climate change.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told the conference on Wednesday that this week’s budget from the Morrison government made him ‘nostalgic’, as the clean energy measures mentioned in the budget were initiatives first announced under his government.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese will deliver his budget reply speech on Thursday evening, which is expected to include a range of commitments to greater support for renewable energy technologies and focus on creating new jobs in the sector.