One of the key cross-bench Senators that the Abbott government hopes will support a massive cut to the renewable energy target is suggesting there should be no resolution to the stand-off until a Senate inquiry into wind farms – the 10th in five years – is completed.
Bob Day, the Family First senator who is co-chairing an inquiry peopled almost entirely by anti-wind Senators says there is no urgency to find a solution to the impasse.
Day told The Australian newspaper that he had heard “harrowing” stories about the impact of wind turbines on humans and animals (read our story about angry ewes, Sudoku problems and kelpies that can’t jump). And he wants all the “facts and figures” before making a decision.
“I think it’s not unreasonable to ask that we don’t come to any agreement on the Renewable Energy Target until such time that we get to the bottom of this,” Day told The Australian.
“I’m not talking about ending the RET, I’m just talking about ‘let’s defer the decision on it’.
The large-scale renewable energy industry in Australia is at a standstill and is likely to remain that way until an agreement between the two major parties can be forged.
In the past six months, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, only one small “floating solar” project has got financial approval, as investment in Australia slumped 90 per cent. It describes Australia as “uninvestable” for renewable energy.
Labor, at the instigation of the Clean Energy Council and with the support of other industry bodies, has proposed a “compromise deal” of 33,500GWh, a cut of nearly 40 per cent from the current target of 41,000GWh.
The Abbott government has refused to budge above 32,000GWh – even though it would make no difference to investment in the next two years, and only 450MW over the following three years, as we pointed out here.
Labor says federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane has not even approached them for more talks on the issue. Instead, he is still seeking a deal with cross-bench Senators to cut the target – possibly to its preferred figure well below 32,000GWh. Some of these Senators last week compared wind turbines to tobacco and pink batts.
Industry insiders said this would likely cause the renewable energy industry to remain stalled anyway, as no financier would put up money based on a cross-bench agreement, given the uncertainties of Senate politics and affiliations.
Three Senators – Glenn Lazarus, Ricky Muir and Dio Wang – have said they will not accede to the government’s entreaties, but that may depend on what they get promised in return.
Another Senator, David Leyonjhelm, who also sits on the Senate wind inquiry and openly states he doesn’t like wind farms, told The Australian that the government may get the numbers.
“I think he probably will get six votes. (The government) will have my vote, with conditions. I’m not a fan of wind turbines, they are killing birds and they are also making some people sick.
“My support for 32,000GWh relates to not giving a particularly big leg-up to wind and giving more scope for other sources.”