We asked corporate leaders from the clean energy industry what they wanted for Xmas. Policy certainty was the number one issue, and it may arrive a few days early with the RET review. Oh, and lunch with our new clean energy Czars, and an electric bike.
But there’s more. Please read on…
A favourable decision on the RET
The clean energy industry will have an answer on the RET on Wednesday. It is hard to imagine the Climate Change Authority delivering a decision much different from its preliminary ruling, which was to retain the fixed target of 41,000GWh for large-scale renewables. That should mean some project developers could find a power purchase agreement in the stocking.
But it will be interesting to see which way the CCA falls on rooftop solar, which is proving an even bigger challenge to the boffins in the energy markets than the prospect of more large-scale wind or solar. But beware of a Coalition victory. Given their likely inability to dump the carbon price (tax yes, price no), changes to the RET will likely offer the path of least resistance to satisfy vested interests and conservative ideology.
A hung parliament
It’s an election year, of course. Much has been written – mostly highly critical – of the hung parliament, but it doesn’t matter which way you cut it, without the hung parliament, there would have been no carbon price, and no energy savings initiatives of the type we are now seeing, nor the creation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation or of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. It is true that Greg Combet and Mark Dreyfus are doing a great job prosecuting their portfolios, but without the Greens holding the balance of power, it’s also pretty clear that the right wing of either the Labor or the Coalition parties would hold sway. They don’t believe in action on climate change, and they don’t believe in clean energy investment. It’s a matter of ideology.
Some policy vision
On the regulatory and policy front, regulators and governments of all ilks will again fail to keep up with the pace of change, leading to a complex, backward-looking and confusing market picture dominated by the status quo and the powerful voices of incumbent players. How about a 15-20 year investment plan to build a clean energy system to ensure Australia has a working energy system – should we see a continued rapid increase in the price of fossil fuels, global action on carbon or other systematic shock – and ensure that the Australian economy is ready to take advantage of rapid price changes in renewable energy prices without a 20-year lag while we play catch-up on infrastructure, supply chains and industry capability. Perhaps what is really needed is a suite of new energy ministers – both at state and federal level.
A meeting with Oliver Yates or Greg Bourne/Ivor Frishknecht
Australia’s clean energy Czars hold the fate of $13 billion of funding between them – enough to trigger perhaps $50 billion of investment into clean energy projects, and whole new industries. Not all will be spent in 2013, but ARENA will be rolling out its first major project funding in the first half of the year (watch out for big solar and off-grid energy systems – hello miners), and Yates has made it clear that the CEFC will have a portfolio of projects ready to roll when it is able to deploy its funds from July 1. One executive said he wanted the CEFC to tackle “oligopoly driven market failure in new utility-scale renewable energy project development/financing.”
In the Xmas stocking ….
A bunch of different requests: That pension funds globally realise that they are recklessly overweight in fossil-fuel leveraged stocks and shift their allocations immediately; for NSW to finish with the Cobbora mine deal; to go ahead with some privatisations; and for some truly bi-partisan support on renewables.
A Tesla Roadster
You’re probably too late for this. The first Tesla is already in Australia, and the first private delivery will be made soon. Only about half a dozen of these have been earmarked for Australia
Powered by renewable energy of course!
Malcolm Turnbull for PM
If there was a common theme through the responses of our test group, this was it. Enough said, most people would be happy if he led either party. Something about vision and leadership.
Here’s one (on the record) letter to Santa that sums up some the issues:
“We have been good boys and girls this year trying to build a cleaner world but those naughty ‘grown ups’ in Canberra have been so busy playing Punch and Judy that they seem to have forgotten us and left us to play with our renewable energy Lego set without the instructions. I think we’ll figure it out anyway, if they just leave us alone, and don’t change the rules of the game half way through!
“Never mind, we have plenty sun in WA, and we can put together our solar panel Meccano kits which are really cheap now, on special. They would work great if we were only allowed to plug them in, but there are lots of forms to fill out and then they say ‘sit at the back and wait your turn.’
“And then in WA, the grown ups spend all their money on their own toys, and don’t even let us play in their game! They spend a lot of money (including some from my piggy bank) on ‘vintage power toys,’ but can never get them to work.
“Anyway Santa, I guess I don’t want much, maybe a little commercial solar feed-in tariff if you can spare one, but I’ll understand if you can’t afford it – times are tough.
“I just want to build nice clean energy stuff, and I have all the parts, just please tell the grown ups to stop mucking about with the instructions.
“Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all the patient renewable energy developers in Australia.
Richard Harris, director, WestGen
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.