Renewable energy subsidy plan would ‘cut power prices’

The Federal Labor Party’s long-awaited energy policy is a boon for renewable energy. It  aims to make power less expensive while reducing the carbon emissions produced by Australia’s electricity sector.

Included in the policy are subsidised lithium batteries to store rooftop-generated solar energy for one million homes and businesses within six years.

It is understood the initial rollout of the $2000 subsidies by 2020 would be to 100,000 means-tested premises, whose owners earned less than $180,000 a year.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said this would go some way to achieving the Labor Party’s renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030 and emissions reductions to 45 per cent of 2005 levels, also by 2030, less than 12 years from now.

The batteries plan would be funded from the $10 billion boost Labor has pledged over five years for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

This doubling of the CEFC’s investment capacity will support:

  • investments in large-scale generation and storage projects
  • a household battery program offering demand-driven concessional loans for the purchase of solar and battery systems
  • existing activities, including investments in energy efficiency projects, commercial and community renewable energy projects and industrial transformation. 

If elected, the party would also invest in measures to increase the efficiency and reliability of the ageing electricity grid by establishing an independent $5 billion Energy Security and Modernisation Fund that will support:

  • unlocking renewable energy through transmission links to Renewable Energy Zones
  • new interconnectors to lower electricity prices and boost system stability
  • new gas infrastructure, including pipelines and pipeline upgrades/extensions
  • technology solutions that facilitate the smooth integration of renewable energy into energy systems and promote energy security.

The plan to help lower electricity costs for households and businesses will focus on improving consumers’ energy efficiency. This agenda, which includes the introduction of a National Home Comfort Rating System, will cost $40 million over four years.

On the rooftop solar scheme, only skilled and accredited battery installers would be allowed to take part in it after completing a training program that will cost $10 million.

The program is a bid to avoid similar mistakes made when the flawed pink batts scheme was scrapped in 2010, following the deaths of a number of unqualified installers.

Another plank of the energy policy is the adoption of a market mechanism, such as former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s doomed National Energy Guarantee (NEG). The NEG focused on encouraging the reliability of Australia’s electricity network, while working towards meeting the nation’s targeted emission reductions as agreed to in the UN Paris Agreement on climate change.

But in the dying days of the Turnbull government, conservative Coalition MPs managed to derail the strategy, which had bi-partisan support. Those MPs objected to the NEG’s failure to embrace new coal-fired power plants and its stated emissions reduction target.

According to some reports, anti-Adani coal mine activists swarmed around the offices of some Labor MPs ahead of the policy’s announcement, forcing their closure. Protesters outside the offices of Mr Shorten, Anthony Albanese and Queensland Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk claimed the refreshed policy did not do enough to encourage the emission reductions required to avoid the worst climate change impacts.

In a statement, the party said: “Labor’s Plan for More Renewable Energy and Cheaper Power will be good for households, good for the economy and good for the environment.

“It will help deliver 50 per cent of power from renewables by 2030, keep power prices lower, and create tens of thousands of jobs in the renewables industry.”

In a second statement, the party said it would not be pulling the rug out from under the feet of the coal mining and power generation industries.

“Coal will continue to be part of our energy mix into the future, and coal mining will continue to be an important industry for the Australian economy,” it said.

“But it’s impossible for ageing coal-fired power stations to stay open forever. And it’s irresponsible to pretend otherwise. Australia must have a plan to help workers and communities respond to future closures.”

If elected, the party would commit $10 million to a Clean Energy Training Fund to train workers in clean energy industries.

It will also require operators of coal-fired generators to give three years’ warning of any closures and mandate a pooled redundancy/transition scheme that would offer any new jobs in the pool to workers who had been made redundant by a closure.

Are you paying less for power since rooftop solar was installed on your house? Do you believe that incentivising further development of renewable energy and storage systems will produce cheaper electricity? Is there an issue that the ALP energy policy has failed to address?

Written by Olga Galacho

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