Pollie Watch: PM Abbott’s first comments on wind farms, Renewable Energy Target

481239-pn-news-tony-abbottTony Abbott has made his first comments on wind energy and the Renewable Energy Target as Prime Minister. During an interview with Alan Jones (2GB) PM Abbott had the following to say:

“If you drive down the Federal Highway from Goulburn to Canberra and you look at Lake George, yes there’s an absolute forest of these things on the other side of the lake near Bungendore. I absolutely understand why people are anxious about these things that are sprouting like mushrooms all over the fields of our country. I absolutely understand the concerns that people have.

“And I also understand the difficulty because while renewable power is a very good idea at one level, you’ve gotta have backups because when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the power doesn’t flow. So this is an obvious problem with renewable energy in the absence of much more sophisticated battery technology than we have right now.

“We are going to review the Renewable Energy Targets. There was going to be a review anyway next year. We’re taking this review very seriously and one of the things that we’ll be looking at will be the impact of renewable energy on power prices, because not only is the carbon tax adding about 9 per cent to everyone’s power bills and we’re going to get rid of that as quickly as we can, renewable energy targets are also significantly driving up power prices right now.”

The Prime Minister cites two common misperceptions about renewables energy: Firstly, that renewables aren’t up for the job of powering the Australian economy because they’re intermittent. And secondly, that the Renewable Energy Target makes up a significant portion of electricity bills.

Let’s break down these misconceptions for the Prime Minister to assist his government’s energy policy making.

Misconception #1: Australia needs backup for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

Reality: It is technically feasible for Australia to meet it’s electricity needs from renewable energy alone.

According to the energy experts, shifting to 100 percent renewable energy is both technically viable and affordable. Studies by the think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (PDF), and follow up studies from the Australian Energy Market Operator (PDF) and University of New South Wales (PDF) confirm the technical feasibility of renewable energy. In terms of cost, the 100 percent renewable energy system is cheaper the fossil fuel based business-as-usual approach.

Modelling is one thing, what about real world applications?

South Australia is leading the nation with its renewable energy rollout. The state now meets 31 percent of its electricity demand from renewable energy sources. Wind farms are doing the heavy lifting, providing 27 percent, while the rapidly growing rooftop solar contributes 4 percent. South Australia is expected to reach 50 percent renewables in a decade.

Misconception #2: Renewable energy is a significant part of power bills, driving up costs. 

Reality: John Howard’s Renewable Energy Target makes up a small portion of Australian power bills. The rollout of renewable energy is making power bills cheaper.

Data from the Australian Energy Market Commission (PDF) shows the RET accounts for less than two percent of the average household electricity bill – or a mere $35 from a $2000 bill. That’s around $0.70 each week over a year. It is transmission, distribution, and wholesale electricity prices which are the largest contributors to power bills.

The Australian Energy Market Commission shows transmission, distribution, and wholesale electricity prices are the largest contributors to power bills.

Renewable energy is putting downward pressure on power bills. Energy analysts agree wind farms are causing South Australia’s wholesale electricity prices to drop. This trend resulted in the SA Essential Services Commission directing energy companies to cut retail prices cut by 8.1 percent. The move will lower the average power bill by $160 a year.

So, what are Australians getting for their $35 investment in renewable energy? Cheaper bills, less pollution, and action on climate change. Most Australians would agree that’s a win, win.

Liberals can lead on renewable energy…

Prime Minister Tony Abbott can take leadership on renewable energy. The PM can back John Howard’s Renewable Energy Target, deliver more renewable energy and cheaper power bills for Australians.

Retired Liberal Sentaor Peter Rae is a renewable energy expert.

Retired Liberal Senator for Tasmania, Peter Rae shows you can be a proud Liberal and a strong supporter of renewable energy. Mr Rae believes the Liberal party has a tradition to uphold when it comes to supporting renewable energy.

Mr Rae was vice president of the World Wind Energy Association (now honorary VP) and is Vice Chairman of the International Renewable Energy Alliance, REN21. With impeccable renewable energy credentials, Mr Rae knows what he’s talking about. Perhaps the PM will draw on the expertise of Peter Rae when undertaking a review of the Renewable Energy Target next year.

45 thoughts on “Pollie Watch: PM Abbott’s first comments on wind farms, Renewable Energy Target

  1. What a ridiculous load of scare mongering!?! Wind farms driving up electricity bills? Why doesn’t he introduce legislation for every lie he tells? We’d be able to pay back the deficit in no time.

  2. I believe Tony Abbott is as stupid as the public that he is trying to appeal to. He isn’t playing to their level, he IS the level…

    1. Where is the peer reviewed research? Why is this only a problem in Australia and in no other country? Another myth!

    2. Not quite Jen, a few people have managed to convince themselves or been convinced by a few scaremongers that wind farms make people ill. But objective investigations show there is no link between wind farms and ill-health. How do you explain the vastly greater number of people living around wind farms with no problems? You need to provide a conclusive link that rules out every other possibility. Nobody has done so. In fact, many of those complaining about wind farms have conflicting interests.

    3. That isn’t even a valid argument once you compare it to the emissions and negative side effects of coal fired power stations.

    4. I lived in a small village in Spain for 2 years, the surrounding area had approx 250 wind turbines within a couple of Kilometers, the closest being approx 50 meters from my house. I barely noticed they were there. The only time I heard them was when I went into my bathroom and the window was open, even then it was barely audible. I saw no increase in damage to wildlife and neither did I hear any complaints from anyone else in the village, even those living closer than myself. This is fac.

    5. Every scientific study on that topic come up with the same result-no links whatever! But obviously some people can make themselves sick very easily.

  3. Hi Jen – Lets get our facts straight please !!! all the scientific examination and studies and evidence suggest unreservedly that wind Farm noise and energy can in no way be seen as or linked to people being sick !

  4. It is true that in any particular spot the wind and sun may not shine, but australia is a big country, somewhere the sun is shining, somewhere the wind is blowing, and four times a day the tides change direction. In any particular place in australia there is roughly a 4 day cycle in the weathr as the cells pass. It takes 5~7days for weather cells to cross Australia so logic says there will be sun or wind maximum somehere across Australia. It is time we had a nationwide grid linked by extra high voltage dc line.

  5. Dannielle, your ignoring the detail, as stated in the article its distribution and wholesale costs that are the majority of power bill costs. Its particularly exacerbated by peak wholesale gas fired prices. Here in SA recent wind energy highs have driven down the average price as they undercut the Gas power price. It even results in the Port Augusta power station shutting down temporarily because it cant compete. Moz

  6. Wind farms don’t make anyone sick Jen. The science is well and truly in. The IDEA of the wind turbines can make people anxious, and they make themselves sick, because they think the turbines will make them sick. Look it up.

  7. Danielle, unsourced assertions without reference to their relevance to the article or discussion are little more than white noise. Perhaps you’d like to expand on your assertion and it’s relevance to the impact of renewable energy on retail electricity prices in SA.

  8. Mr Abbott who described climate change as ‘absolute crap’ has been taking advise from Maurice Newman, climate change sceptic, neo-liberal think tank founder and anti-wind property owner.

  9. The problem is always share holders, With so many Australian house holds using rooftop energy systems the amount of energy consumed is the same but the amount of dollars collected is less, This is great for the people who have the rooftop systems and for the environment but it affects the earnings of the shareholders who like Banks and other fraudulent establishments have a projected estimate of what they expect to earn and if that dollar amount is less than that projected amount then they will raise the cost to everyone else until they earn that projected amount even though they have supplied less product. The stock exchange is responsible for most of the worlds famine and for the loss of nearly all of the manufacturing industry in the ”western” countries of the world

  10. That’s not even taking into account energy from waste, geothermal, and medium to large scale solar that could be built to help industrial or agricultural sites.

  11. Actually, Tony seems to be talking at least some sense here, (apart from nonsenses about people being concerned about wind turbines, renewables driving up power prices, undisclosed vested interests with high carbon fuel suppliers, and generally having no idea about leading the planet towards a positive low carbon future)…. Current renewable technologies (wind and conventional solar) aren’t going to be a reliable 24 hours per day answer to the world’s energy needs. We need to be investing in new developing emerging technologies such as LENR, fusion, thorium, solar thermal, wave, geothermal, etc. we need to be able to offer solutions to the world to replace high carbon fuels. It’s a pity we can no longer make anything here in OZ, and just basically a global mining pit… Don’t worry too much, if we just sit back and wait for others to sell us technical solutions to climate change (like wind turbines and solar panels…) we should be OK for the next 100+ years while we still have stuff to dig up and sell….

    1. Of course, no-one said they would be the total solution. Some of the other options you mention are good right now (solar thermal, geothermal) or looking promising (wave for example). On the other hand, thorium isn’t used anywhere that I’m aware of, and fusion power has been 20 years away from commercialisation for about the last 30 years, without change…

  12. Abbott has sold himself out to coal mining interests, it wouldn’t matter how many facts you throw at him, heck, you could even build a time machine and take him to a future where big polluters won and show him the life of misery his grand children will live and he still wont change his mind.

  13. Germany seems to be doing pretty well with solar, Mr Abbott. Not sure if you’ve been there but they don’t get a fraction of the sunshine Australia gets.

    1. Are they?????????
      An article in Der Spiegel last month summed up the reasons Germany provides a critical lesson about a green energy utopia. Headlined “How Electricity Became a Luxury Good”, it blows the whistle on the bogus nature of the green dream as Germans pay the highest electricity costs in Europe…

      “This year, German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26bn) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants – electricity with a market price of just over €3bn.

      “Even the figure of €20bn is disputable if you include all the unintended costs and collateral damage associated with the project. Solar panels and wind turbines at times generate huge amounts of electricity, and sometimes none at all. Depending on the weather and the time of day, the country can face absurd states of energy surplus or deficit.”

      And Germans are discovering that their warm embrace of green policies is leaving the most vulnerable citizens out in the cold – quite literally. Charities call it “energy poverty”. Rising electricity bills, in large part due to Germany’s renewable energy surcharges, have seen power cut off to more than 300,000 households a year because of unpaid bills.

      As Stefan Becker from Catholic charity Caritas in Berlin told Der Spiegel, “People here have to decide between spending money on an expensive energy-saving bulb or a hot meal.”…

      The same crunch is happening in Britain where Prime Minister David Cameron once declared his government would be the “greenest government ever”. Cameron now admits that green levies for renewable energy are causing “energy poverty” for 2.4 million British households.

      The lessons from Germany and Britain should be high in the minds of the Abbott government… Last year the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal found that green schemes in Australia will add $316 to the average power bill, the carbon tax adding $168 and the renewable energy schemes another $148. The Productivity Commission and the Institute of Public Affairs have warned that renewable energy policies in Australia defy reality with increased electricity bills delivering no environment benefit…

      Rather than mandate a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, why not let the market decide?

      1. “Why not let the market decide”? is pointless in environmental discussions. If we let the market decide everything, we’d still be pouring sulphurous soot into the sky causing acid rain, we’d still be building with asbestos. “Markets” don’t make decisions. “Market” is an abstract concept. The question is, what do we want? What policy will make it happen? Feed-in Tariffs are effective, whether they are equitable is another matter. But Australia doesn’t have a feed-in tariff like Germany. Our renewable energy target is the closest thing.

        The IPART findings in NSW also seem to have missed a couple of points. Once built, renewables have zero fuel cost, so over time we’re building ourselves a cheaper energy system. Also, renewable energy keeps the wholesale price of power down due to the way our energy market works, and they didn’t factor that into their study at all.

        And of course, the Institute of Public Affairs are riddled with people who don’t even accept science, so how they are a credible source on anything is beyond me.

      2. Russ, “letting the market decide” is something of a copout when that same market (in this case fossil fuelled electricity generation) got a taxpayer funded leg up – and still does – back when generating capacity was first developed. I would love anybody who condemns wind energy to explain why it was okay for the taxpayer to subsidise coal mining and coal-fired generators decades ago but it’s not okay for taxpayers to support the establishment of clean energy sources today?

  14. “unsourced assertions without reference to their relevance to the article or discussion are little more than white noise. ”

    I’d go one step further; I’d say white, middle-class noise.

  15. Coal Fires Electricity generators produce Sulphur Dioxide which is the main ingredient in Sulphuric Acid which makes Acid Rain. If you stand outside in the rain in Vermont, Quebec, Maine, New England you will feel the acid burns on your skin. This is caused by the Coal Fired generators in the Ohio Valley, they have stacks 350 feet high just to keep the pollution out of Ohio. The scientists have now found that Acid Rain is poisoning the Seas off Australia, cause is the Coal Fired Generators in Australia.
    It has been proven beyond doubt that Wind Farms do not cause sickness and the price of Solar Power is coming down faster than a lot of people think.
    Mr. Abbott has a very negative attitude to anything that he did not think of, plus his education of these things has been zero, therefore we should forgive him BUT he must listen to the experts , not Alan Jones, but the experts who have been preaching this for years.
    Abbott must react positively NOW to Climate Change if we want to be a world leader not a follower.
    We as people of Australia must be very careful of this Government as it tries to introduce a new World Trade Agreement called TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) This agreement will remove ALL our rights, intellectual Property rights, Laws, etc.
    Under this agreement a foreign company can come into Australia bring all it’s own material and labor, build a sub-standard building then if government, State or Federal, takes them to court the Australian Government will lose and pay through nose.
    No one can get a copy of this agreement due to the fact that the Federal Government (Abbott) will not release it.

  16. So if living near wind farms makes you sick…
    try living near a coal fired power station,
    try living near a busy road,
    try living near a factory spewing out toxic smoke and noise.

    Get over it.

    Try living when we run out of coal!!!

  17. Tony is right. Solar energy for households is the biggest con going. The fact is that most households use very little power during the day when the solar power is being generated. The bulk of the power being produced is going round and round in the grid and is far too unreliable to replace other generating means. A rain event and the solar power is gone for the time being.Without the generous feed in tariffs, which have pushed up the price for everyone it is an absolute dud, unless you can use the power while it is being produced.

    1. Fred, what does “round and round in the grid” mean? Do you think electricity circuits function like a merry-go-round? I used to think I didn’t understand the physics of electricity, but after reading comments by people who oppose renewable energy, I have gained in self-confidence in that regard!

  18. Thank you for this article. Sad to read Mr Abbott’s ridiculous comments, considering this is the leader of Australia who is talking… but so much the more important to spread awareness about these matters.

    Speaking of wind power – here is some inspiration from Denmark which surpassed 100 percent wind power on 3 November:


    “On November 3, wind power production in Denmark exceeded the level of power consumption. Craig Morris says the event was not even especially exceptional.”

    Contrary to Mr Abbott and his friends in the ‘Dark (Fossil Fuel) Forces’, I know a lot of people who think wind mills are beautiful and attractive in the landscape – and in particular when compared to the look of a coal power plant, a coal or CSG mine, a refinery, etc.
    What nonsens to be talking about aestetics at a time when we are in a planetary emergency with an atmosphere that soon cannot take more smoke from our burning of fossil fuels (90 million tonnes of carbon every day at the moment). Climate change is real, and as it can be seen in countries like Denmark, wind turbines can be a good answer to some of our problems.

    Australians need to realise that it is not stupidity they are up against. It is the coal, gas and oil industry – which currently has all the power that money can buy. Most likely the only way to rebel against such powerful forces is to move over to renewables one by one, house by house, community by community.

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