Pollie Watch: Member for Monaro is wrong on wind, RET

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 11.19.49 PMNew South Wales MP John Barilaro (Nationals) has called for a moratorium on wind farm developments in the state.

Mr Barilaro says the state government shouldn’t allow wind farms to go ahead while the Renewable Energy Target is reviewed.  

Wind energy is now cheaper than gas and coal, and an important source of local job growth and drought-proof income for regional Australia. Barilaro’s reactionary moratorium would put these benefits at risk.

According to the ABC, Barilaro is “against new wind farm developments in principle because he doesn’t like to see government subsidies used to support projects that lack community support.”

Mr Barilaro’s reasoning for a moratorium doesn’t stack up.

All available polling shows Australians support the Renewable Energy Target and want more wind farms.

One poll by Essential Research, for example, showed 71 per cent of voters supporting more wind energy, while a more recent found that 39 per cent of Australians think the current Renewable Energy Target is “about right” (with a further 25 per cent saying it is “too low”).

A credible CSIRO study on the perceptions of wind farms in regional areas concluded:

“There is strong community support for the development of wind farms than might be otherwise assumed from media coverage.”

Then there’s Barilaro’s suggestion that the Renewable Energy Target is a subsidy. 

Wind energy does not receive taxpayer-funded subsidies. Instead, renewable energy legislation compels electricity companies to purchase renewable energy certificates relative to their market share. The cost of the RET is a salami slice of power bills, yet like any good investment, it delivers a return.

According to University of Melbourne energy analysts, wind farms (driven by the RET) have caused South Australia’s wholesale electricity prices to fall. As a result, the SA Essential Services Commission has directed energy companies to cut retail prices cut by 8.1 percent – a move that will lower the average power bill by $160 a year.

Lower wholesale prices more than offset the costs of the Renewable Energy Target. Rather than attacking the RET and energy technologies, perhaps Mr Barilaro will take on energy companies who refuse to pass on cost savings to their customers.

Will Mr Barilaro go into bat for lower power bills?

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