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Canberra leads the way in renewable energy

The need to move to smarter, lower pollution and more distributed energy sources is driving a revolution in the energy industry and will unlock massive levels of investment over the next decade.

Our city, and Australia, must build on our strengths and lead innovation to benefit from new jobs and export opportunities this investment will deliver.

The significant economic benefits gained through the ACT’s first wind auction and the broader benefits of continued renewable energy sector growth for businesses and education in Canberra are clear.

At a time when the Commonwealth Government have taken an axe to effective action on climate change and support for renewables, the ACT Government is moving forward with the nation’s most ambitious agenda of carbon reduction and energy change.

The Commonwealth has slashed the national 2020 renewable energy target from 41 to just 33 terawatt-hours.

It has repealed the carbon price which saw, for the first time in the nation’s history, a reversal in growth of power station emissions.

It tried to abolish or hobble both the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

And the Prime Minister has personally claimed that coal ‘is good for humanity’ while slamming wind energy as being ‘offensive’.

At every opportunity, while the world has been moving forward in leaps and bounds towards a cleaner energy future, the Abbott Government has been going backwards, squandering this exceptional opportunity to lead innovation, create new jobs, and drive investment.

Australia is being left behind by the rest of the world’s emission reduction initiatives.

Just this week, President Obama issued new, landmark regulations designed to shift the US power industry away from global warming inducing fossil fuels. His new regulations, administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency, will limit the carbon dioxide emissions that can be released by the nation’s power plants.

Under the new rules, American states will have until 2018 to tell the EPA how they plan to meet individual emission reduction targets. Overall, the rule aims to achieve a 32 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector on 2005 levels by 2030.

Australia has always been strong at harnessing our natural resources, but that no longer means just gas, oil and coal. Australia has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world and its past time we took full advantage of them.

But our greatest competitive strength should be our capacity to innovate, to lead research and development. We are an advanced knowledge economy, hungry to experiment, innovate and take new products and services to the global market.

Amid this national stagnation, Canberra has been taking the lead. We have committed to a real greenhouse gas abatement target – one that is consistent with the science.

We have committed to a real renewable energy target that is achievable and affordable. Canberrans can be proud of the progress we have made and that our ambitious targets for 2020 are now in reach.

Canberra has emerged as an internationally recognised centre for renewable energy innovation and investment:

• Local renewable energy jobs have increased 400% over the past 5 years, at a time when national jobs in the sector have fallen

• Over $250 million of benefits are being delivered through the establishment of two new global operations centres here in Canberra.

• Millions more will flow from new private sector investments in trades training and tertiary education – getting the next generation of energy workers trained and into new jobs.

One example: the Power Saving Centre (Canberra) —a local commercial and residential solar installation business—has grown from two to more than 22 employees in less than two years.

The benefits of new opportunity are being spread across our growing economy. It’s feeding into tourism, hospitality, office services.

The local investment benefits are many:

• Neoen, from France, have established their Asia-Pacific Wind Energy Headquarters in Canberra that will service their investments across the Asia-Pacific region, and;

• RES, from the UK, have partnered with local company, Windlab, to provide asset management services for wind farms resulting in the establishment of Windlab’s new Global Operations Hub.

Our ongoing investment in renewable energy is also driving significant innovation, providing a platform for new ACT businesses, and building links between the ACT’s world class education institutions and the energy industry.

Renewable energy businesses have committed to, for example, develop a new ANU Wind-power Master’s course, and run a lecture program visiting every high school in the ACT—public and private—introducing renewable energy and its career opportunities.

These businesses will also establish a new CIT Renewable Energy Skills Centre of Excellence with $5.9m of funding committed over 20 years.

Canberra institutions such as the ANU’s Energy Change Institute are leaders in their fields. We can leverage our local know-how and build a more diverse export-oriented economy.

In order to help these businesses grow and attract new business to the region, the ACT government has put in place a Renewable Energy Industry Development Strategy or ‘REIDS’.

REIDS is focusing on solar, wind and energy storage, and combined with a renewable energy precinct and test berth facilities, the strategy brings together a range of existing government renewable energy initiatives to accelerate the development of a renewable energy industry in the ACT.

The strategy will benefit the ACT by attracting further renewable energy businesses to the ACT, linking research and training with industry groups, and supporting the development of new and emerging ACT-based ventures.

Twenty five organisations with substantial international reach have already signed up as inaugural partners to the strategy; including General Electric, the ANU Energy Change Institute, Vestas, Neoen, Australian Capital Ventures, Windlab and Siemens.

The ACT’s first Wind Auction broke national records in terms of low-cost renewable energy with prices as low as 8 cents a kilowatt hour. This compares to current residential retail electricity prices of around 18 cents.

As a result of the low prices achieved, the Government has revised down the costs of achieving our 90% renewable energy target by nearly 20 per cent from original estimates.

Not only will these costs decline over time, the benefits of growing a vibrant export oriented local renewable energy industry will provide benefits that will grow for a generation.

Canberra’s investment in renewable energy is returning substantial economic benefits to the ACT. The ACT renewable energy auctions together with REIDS are stimulating over a billion dollars of renewable energy infrastructure development, attracting large international business to the ACT, and creating jobs to diversify and strengthen the ACT economy.

It’s time for the Federal Government to stop attacking renewable energy, and look at what we’re doing in this city. The ACT is a shining example of what you can achieve by embracing a cleaner energy future.

Source: Andrew Barr

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