To achieve national renewable energy targets, it should remain untouched by politics, according to Australia’s Climate Change Authority. Its report recommends that Australia stand firm on its target as any reworking will impact investor confidence in the renewable energy industry and affect its development in the long run. The sustainable industry in Australia also received another boost with the appointment of Ben Waters, GE’s Director of Ecomagination, as the chair of Sustainable Business Australia, bringing a wealth of experience in innovative business practices and driving sustainable development. Read more
Aussies Try Clean Energy Policy Without Politics
By Pete Danko in Earth Techling:
Like the U.K., Australia is trying to insulate questions regarding climate change and energy policy from politics — emphasis on trying — and that could help save the country’s renewable energy target. It’s an approach the United States might want to consider.
The expert Climate Change Authority, analogous to the U.K.’s independent statutory body the Committee on Climate Change, released a draft paper late last week recommending Australia stand firm on its 2020 target, commonly referred to as 20 percent renewables, in order to maintain investor confidence in the clean energy sector.
Some politicians and business and energy interests in Australia have been pushing for a pullback on the target – which is actually a gigawatt-hour amount – saying that Australians were headed for skyrocketing power bills because the incentives that underpin the target will actually push Australia well beyond 20 percent renewables, mainly because the country is projected to use much less electricity than had been previously forecast.
In its paper, the CCA agreed that renewable energy generation could very well end up surging past 20 percent; it estimated that with current policies in place Australia will be getting about 25 percent of electricity supply from renewables in 2020. But the committee said ratepayers would gain little if the target were reworked:
The Authority considers that the projected resource cost savings to society overall that might be achieved by reducing the target would not be large enough to offset the damage to investor confidence that such a change could entail.
In terms of the impacts on electricity prices paid by energy users, taking into account both the cost of certificates and the decrease in wholesale electricity prices, modelling to date suggests that the difference between the scenarios is likely to be small, and the net present value of the impact on average household bills between now and 2030 would not be significant.
And perhaps more importantly, the committee feared the damage a shift in policy might do to investment in clean energy:
The Australian electricity market is already facing considerable uncertainty, particularly in relation to the future of the carbon price. The Authority is concerned that adding to these uncertainties by recommending major changes to current policy settings at this time could increase risk premiums required by lenders and investors in renewable energy, and may affect perceptions of risk for investors in clean technologies more broadly.
This point is particularly interesting from an American perspective; with energy and climate change policy highly politicized, governments – the federal government, and state governments as well – are finding it increasingly difficult to establish or maintain long-term policies that investors, entrepreneurs and the scientific community can act on. Witness the debate about the wind energy production tax credit; it’s due to expire in two months. Will it? Nobody knows. A lame duck Congress might rescue it. Or it might not. Meanwhile, the industry is stalled and workers are being laid off.
Ultimately, Australia’s government will make the decision on climate and energy policy, but with an independent body providing ballast in the roiling waters of debate, the likelihood of stable, considered and ultimately more effective long-term policy decision-making does seem to be enhanced.
The CCA’s 185-page discussion paper “Renewable Energy Target Review,” is available online as a PDF.
SBA (6 November 2012):
GE’S BEN WATERS APPOINTED AS CHAIR OF SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS AUSTRALIA
Sustainable Business Australia (SBA) today announced it had appointed Ben Waters, GE’s Director of Ecomagination for Australia and New Zealand, as its Chair of Directors. The appointment follows Mr Waters’ admission to the SBA Board as a non-executive Director in December 2011.
Mr Waters said he was pleased to accept the position and was looking forward to working closely with the SBA Board to further promote sustainability as good business practice.
“I am honoured to take on this role with the SBA Board and glad to be able to support and work more closely as Chair with SBA’s CEO Andrew Petersen,” Mr Waters said.
“In the coming months we will be strongly promoting SBA’s sustainability agenda as a competitive business proposition, emphasizing that sustainability is not just the right thing to do, but the commercially smart way to operate,” he said.
SBA CEO Andrew Petersen said he was delighted that Ben Waters would be the new Chair.
“Ben will bring a wealth of business experience to the role and has clearly demonstrated his capabilities since he joined the Board last December.
“I would also like to thank Rob Purves for agreeing to stay on the Board and for his tremendous leadership role and support throughout his six years as chair.”
Outgoing Chair Robert Purves said he had greatly enjoyed his years as Chair of the SBA Board.
“While we have faced many challenges over this period, including a major branding change from Environment Business Australia to Sustainable Business Australia at the end of 2010, I am proud to have been associated with such an important and effective organisation that has established some essential partnerships with government and businesses in a rapidly-changing commercial environment,” Mr Purves said.
“As GE’s Director of Ecomagination, Ben Waters has already become an influential voice on innovative business practices in Australia, demonstrating a commitment to driving sustainable development in this country.
“Ben’s knowledge and expertise will help strengthen SBA and propel the sustainable business agenda at an exciting time of change, which will provide added benefits for SBA’s national membership.
“I believe SBA will become increasingly important for business and government and I am sure it will consolidate its position as a critical advocacy group and think tank with Ben Waters as Chair,” he said.
As new Chair of SBA, Mr Waters will be providing the opening address on 8 November at the inaugural Australian Sustainability Conference & Exhibition (ASCE), which will be held at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre from 8-9 November 2012 (www.australiansustainability.com.au).
Sustainable Business Australia is the peak body for the low-carbon and environmental goods and services sector. We are also a think tank focusing on the growth of ‘new markets, new industries and new jobs’ as part of the sustainable development agenda.