The group of Senators driving the latest parliamentary inquiry into wind farms and health has intensified its attack on Australia’s wind energy sector, calling for subsidies to be pared back even further, in a move that’s being described as an anti-renewables “political stitch-up”.
In a final report from the Senate investigation – controversially circulated to the Murdoch media ahead of its tabling in the Senate on Monday – the Abbott government is being urged to limit renewable energy subsidies for new wind farms to five years, down from more than 20.
The recommendation, if adopted, threatens to make wind energy investment – an asset that lasts at least 20 years – unviable, in a market that is only just getting back on its feet after a period of protracted uncertainty around Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.
The report also calls for the issue of renewable energy certificates to be restricted to projects in states that adopt strict federal regulations on infrasound and low frequency noise.
According to The Australian on Friday, the Senate recommendation to further limit subsidies recognised wind energy as a well developed and “mature” industry; while the ban on issuing RECs to wind farms in states not adhering to federal infrasound guidelines was designed to force the hand of governments that rejected a national approach at the last COAG meeting.
Unsurprisingly, the Clean Energy Council – which made significant concessions to the Abbott government, including accepting a much diluted RET number, in an effort to re-establish investor certainty for the wind industry – is not impressed.
CEC chief Kane Thornton said the fact that the report was circulated to journalists before it had been seen by the industry or Parliament revealed the exercise for what it was: “a biased political stitch-up by a small group of senators opposed to the cheapest forms of renewable energy.”
“Adopting these reckless recommendations would damage Australia’s international investment reputation, right when we are finalizing major agreements with some of our biggest trading partners,” Thornton said in a statement on Friday.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects have been announced since a deal on the RET was legislated, and these will create hundreds of jobs and major investment in regional and rural areas of the country.
Thornton stressed that the wind industry remained open to scrutiny, as it always had been, provided that scrutiny was objective and based on evidence.
“Australians should be disappointed with this Senate inquiry, given the clear breach of proper parliamentary process and the way it has been used to prosecute a personal crusade by a small number of senators,” he said.
Small though it may be, the crusade has been quite successful. This week’s renewed anti-wind push follows the Abbott government’s directive to the Clean Energy Finance to cease all financing of wind projects, as well as calls from the anti-wind cohort to install a new regulator to monitor noise levels near wind turbines, as well as nation-wide noise standards.
On the subject of the wind inquiry, the federal government has said – via a letter from environment minister Greg Hunt – to respond “actively and in good faith” to the Senate committee findings.
According to The Australian, crossbench senators are confident the federal government will accept their recommendations. And considering the Prime Minister and Treasurer’s stated dislike of the aesthetic of wind turbines, well they might be. Changes to legislation would, however, require the support of six non-government senators in the upper house.
“Adopting the headline recommendation of this report would be economically reckless, and shows some of the senators are out of touch with the business community and the Australian people, who overwhelmingly support renewable energy,” Thornton said.