Mixed Greens: Fight for Tasmania solar tariffs

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Campaign intensifies for Tasmania solar tariffs; ACT encourages electric bikes; Gray laments Verve merger; Greens target fossil fuel subsidies; KPMG identifies climate risks.

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Push for Tasmania solar tariffs 

A new alliance of businesses, householders and community groups has been formed in Tasmania to fight for the retention of feed in tariffs for small and medium sized renewable energy projects. The group, called Save Solar Tasmania, wants the government to commit to retaining current tariffs, which offers a “like-for-like” net tariff, citing cancelling of orders and the risk of business closing.

David Fry from Launceston solar installer Grant Chugg Plumbing said “The government’s lack of direction on maintaining existing feed-in tariffs for domestic and business customers is damaging and potentially catastrophic for solar businesses and consumers alike. Many Tasmanians (and many older Tasmanians) have purchased systems to ‘future-proof’ their energy needs on the basis that they would be paid ‘like for like’ for the electricity they have created.”

Save Solar Tasmania spokesman Jack Gilding said Tasmania has the potential to be the renewable energy powerhouse of Australia. “Changes to the electricity market could be an opportunity to harness the potential for many Tasmanians to be producers, not just consumers of electricity. Households, communities, farmers and businesses are keen to invest in these opportunities, but the government needs to provide a supportive policy environment.”

ACT encourages electric bikes

The ACT is introducing new laws to allow a wider range of electric bicycles to be used in Canberra. The government proposes to allow higher performance electric bikes (pedalecs) under the European standard, up to a maximum continuous power rating of 250 watts, to be used in the ACT. The current laws limit electric bikes to a maximum peak power of 200 watts. Riders will be required to adhere to bicycle road rules, such as wearing a bicycle helmet which meets the Australian Standard.

KPMG identifies climate risks

An analysis by The Climate Institute,Manidis Roberts and KPMG has found that Australian businesses face multi-million dollar exposures to the costs of climate impacts on interdependent infrastructure, and could be more costly than the carbon price. Analysis by Manidis Roberts found that extreme heat in Melbourne in 2009 was not only the direct cause of severe disruptions to electricity and transport systems, but also created numerous second- , third-, fourth- and fifth-order impacts across multiple infrastructure networks as failures in one system caused failures in others.

Economic modelling by KPMG found that the impact of a projected heat event on a hypothetical large manufacturing and distribution business in Melbourne resulted in disruption and reduced performance of key assets and services. The costs for the business from disruption to labour supply alone ranged from $1 to 5 million, or 0.2-1.1 per cent of revenue, potentially more costly than the impact of the carbon price.  “This is a considerable hit for a business to take from an event which could become a regular feature of summer within decades,” said Nicki Hutley, Chief Economist Advisory at KPMG. “And this doesn’t include the costs of supply chain disruption, which would be likely to occur simultaneously. Nor does it include likely longer term price increases in inputs and insurance premiums.”

Greens target fossil fuel subsidies

The Greens have made a renewed push to remove fossil fuel subsidies, releasing new costings by the Parliamentary Budget Office that show that Labor’s spending on fossil fuel subsidies for wealthy mining companies will cost Australian taxpayers more than $13 billion over the next four years. It wants fossil fuel subsidies for the mining companies removed, including diesel fuel tax rebates of $7.95 billion over four years; accelerated depreciation on assets of $1.85 billion over four years; and accelerated depreciation on exploration – $4.05 billion over four years.

“In one year alone, Labor plans to spend $4.45 billion on these fossil fuel subsidies – that’s more than enough to increase Newstart by $50 a week and reverse cuts to single parent support,” Greens leader Senator Christine Milne said. “In this critical decade of global warming, why are we shovelling more money into fossil fuel companies to make it cheaper to pollute. These billions of dollars are fuelling global warming by helping big mining corporations pay their fuel bills and get special tax treatment for exploration to pay for more fossil fuels.”

Gray rails at WA energy utility merger

Newly appointed Federal Energy Minister Gary Gray has criticized plans to re-merge Western Australian state owned utilities Verve and Synergy, saying the move would diminish competition and lead to higher electricity prices. WA energy minister Mike Nahan, however, has played down concerns, saying that the merged body would effectively “exit” the electricity industry and would rely on the private sector to fund up to $10 billion in power station investment needed post 2020,when Verve’s ageing power stations would need replacement.

He ruled out privatisation of Verve or Synergy in this term of Government, but said Verve would be expected to work its stations harder and flagged a retreat of the Government from power generation. “Do I think the State will slowly exit generation? Yes,” he said, according to The West Australian. “Wasn’t that the whole purpose of the disaggregation? “We need a market where the State gets out of generation, but the market isn’t just private operators supplying energy to Synergy but taking more of the market risk.” The WA Independent Power Association said it was “surprised” at the move, but reserved judgment till further talks.

 

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