Withdrawn … the state government will no longer support clean energy schemes and is urging the federal government to follow suit. Photo: Jessica Shapiro
THE NSW government’s decision to withdraw support from clean energy schemes was criticised yesterday as a retrograde step that would threaten billions of investment dollars.
The Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, has said the government would not be supporting green schemes that require a subsidy and is calling for the closure of the federal government’s renewable energy target.
After the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s draft determination for a 16 per cent rise in electricity prices, Mr Hartcher blamed federal Labor for forcing households and small businesses to foot the bill for its carbon tax and ”costly green schemes”.
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He called for the closure of the renewable energy target – legislation that is supported by the federal opposition.
The NSW opposition spokesman for energy, Luke Foley, said yesterday the tribunal’s determination found that green energy schemes had not contributed to electricity price increases. Power bills are forecast to rise between $182 and $338 a year from July 1.
Mr Foley said the state government had ended bipartisan support for the 20 per cent renewable energy target after calling for the target to be removed, despite adopting the target in its state plan released last year.
”The O’Farrell government has launched a relentless attack on renewable energy, with chilling investment signals sent by the government throughout its first year in office,” he said.
”Solar in NSW has been stopped dead in its tracks. The draft wind guidelines are designed to chronically handicap the expansion of the wind industry.
”Renewable energy is already contributing to lower wholesale electricity prices. The Australian Energy Market Commission recently reported that new wind energy projects in Victoria will mean that increases to wholesale electricity prices in that state will be lower than in NSW. Rather than attacking wind farms, the O’Farrell government should require its own planning review to come up with a sensible and workable planning regime for the development of the wind industry in NSW.”
The acting chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, Kane Thornton, said it was a “worrying sign that the NSW government would seek the removal of one of Australia’s most significant energy policies without considering the impact this would have on investors who have put billions of dollars into clean energy projects in NSW. The renewable energy target is scheduled to run until 2030 and these projects would face collapse if it was removed.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Hartcher said yesterday the government supports the increase in use of energy from renewable sources as a key component of its broader energy strategy. She said NSW Labor had set network charges for the five years to 2014 and was responsible for the failed solar bonus scheme.
”Labor and the Greens keep ignoring the truth, which is that green energy schemes are hurting consumers because they all need subsidies – and those subsidies are hidden in their electricity bills,” she said.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre said yesterday rural and regional customers would be among the hardest hit by the electricity price rises. It has called for energy rebates that target people most at risk of poverty.
A senior policy officer, Carolyn Hodge, said rebate rates were uniform despite the fact consumers were charged different electricity rates.
”PIAC is particularly concerned about people in rural and regional areas who are paying approximately $600 per year more than the average Sydney household,” she said. ”Not all of the assistance available to vulnerable people has kept up with power prices.”