Leaders of the renewable energy industry have come clean about the benefits of the country’s Renewable Energy Target in a series of short interviews released by the Clean Energy Council today.
The executives include representatives from some of the largest local and international clean energy companies, who talk about the importance of the policy in creating investment and jobs to date, as well as their concern for future benefits that may be lost if it was significantly changed. The current review of the Renewable Energy Target has generated significant uncertainty about the potential for the regulatory goal posts to be moved, putting substantial investment at risk.
These companies are also part of an industry that has the potential to deliver more than $18 billion of investment and 18,400 additional jobs if the target is retained in its current form. A stable Renewable Energy Target is critical to unlocking this potential and driving the transition to a cleaner energy system - something the majority of Australians want.
Infigen Energy Managing Director and Clean Energy Council Chair Miles George said there had been many previous reviews of the Renewable Energy Target which had demonstrated the policy’s effectiveness.
“Those reviews have essentially found that the scheme operates well. It has created the beginnings of a good industry in Australia,” Mr George said.
Doug Smith, Trina Solar’s Australian Country Manager, said ‘confidence in a long-term stable policy’ was essential for his company to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the Australian economy.
And Mark Twidell, Managing Director of solar inverter specialist SMA Australia, said the Renewable Energy Target gave companies the confidence to invest in solar power.
“It tells them that the government supports the program and gives them a 15-year rebate on the renewable energy they’re generating. I think what Australians want is lower-cost electricity, and solar PV is well on the way to delivering that,” Mr Twidell said.
Lane Crockett, Executive General Manager of Pacific Hydro Australia, emphasised the risk of changing a policy that would affect assets with an investment horizon of 15 years or more – something that is very much on the mind of companies that have invested behind the Renewable Energy Target since it was introduced in 2001.
“If the Renewable Energy Target was cut, that would have a range of different impacts. There’s sovereign risk and the impact it would have on the value of our existing assets.”
Several multinational companies warned that if the target was reduced they were likely to take their funds and renewable energy projects to countries with more favourable investment conditions.
Andrea Fontana, FRV’s Australian Country Manager, said while Australia currently offered investment opportunities, the company would look more closely at other markets if it couldn’t rely on the future of the Renewable Energy Target.
Andrew Thomson, Managing Director of ACCIONA Australia, said his company had not seen any other country retreating from its ambitions towards renewable energy, despite the economic challenges in different parts of the world.
John Titchen, Managing Director, Goldwind Australia said the Renewable Energy Target offered a range of benefits to the economy and consumers.
“With renewable energy we are increasing the supply of electricity in the market. That's reducing carbon emissions, it’s increasing jobs and it’s providing downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices.”
Jack Curtis, Asia-Pacific Vice-President of Business Development, First Solar said the support of communities was critical, and his company was committed to sharing the economic benefits of their projects with those living in the vicinity of them.
"When you look at the projects we’ve developed and constructed under the Renewable Energy Target, all of them focus very closely at the local community level - how we can take the work that we do, sub-contract that to local companies, localise the supply chain and make sure that we are really re-investing back into the Australian economy," Mr Curtis said.
Jeremy Schultz, Chairman of Partners at law firm Finlaysons, said renewable energy projects also provided work across a wide range of professional services, from lawyers and accountants to government engagement specialists, architects and community engagement professionals.
“It’s not just the works around a project – it’s a far bigger thing that just that,” Mr Schultz said.
The series of short clips is available on the Clean Energy Council website. They were filmed in April 2014.
Please contact Clean Energy Council Media Manager Mark Bretherton on 0413 556 981 for more information or to organise an interview.