Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has announced a $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund as Australia’s new climate change policy, adding to the existing Emissions Reduction Fund by $600 million over the next four years.
The policy includes $56 million towards a new interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland to help build the Battery of the Nation project, as well as development of a National Electric Vehicle strategy.
Smart Energy Council CEO, John Grimes, said, “We are facing a climate change emergency and we need to do whatever we can to increase our solar and renewable energy generation. Renewables increase competition, slash costs and deliver clean energy.
“Instead of fast tracking the connection of renewables, Scott Morrison’s answer is to lock in failed policy, and say we will meet our targets ‘in a canter’.”
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said the announcement is no substitute for strong energy policy.
“Any policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which ignores the need to transition our emissions-intensive energy sector – the largest source of emissions in the Australian economy – to clean energy, is not taking the matter seriously. It also misses a golden opportunity to incentivise further private investment, further lower energy prices and create jobs.
“This new fund will not apply to the energy generation sector. This means that the momentum created by $20 billion of private investment in large-scale renewable energy being built behind the Renewable Energy Target is now at risk. All the incredible expertise and capacity the industry has built could be lost without policy certainty beyond 2020.
“As the Clean Energy Council outlined recently in a series of policy recommendations for the upcoming Federal Election, Australia is in desperate need of a long-term energy policy that includes a target for reducing emissions across the electricity sector.
“Along with many other organisations, such as the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group, the Clean Energy Council backed the government’s efforts to deliver cheap, clean and reliable energy through its National Energy Guarantee. While climate and energy policy remain a difficult political issue, the lack of any genuine policy is unsustainable for the energy sector.”
Mr Thornton said the funding for a second Bass Strait interconnector to provide a stronger link between the mainland and Tasmania’s hydro generation, pumped hydro storage and other renewable resources will help to unlock Tasmania’s enormous renewables potential, and is very welcome.
Concern has also been raised by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), which fears that the policy will have a negative impact on low-income earners.
“The Coalition has not increased its woefully inadequate 2030 emissions reduction targets, or outlined a plan to transition equitably to clean energy with protections for people on low-incomes,” said ACOSS CEO, Cassandra Goldie.
“This summer’s extreme weather of heatwaves, fires and floods, made worse by climate change, have destroyed people’s homes and impacted livelihoods and health, especially for people experiencing poverty and disadvantage.
“There is no room for ideology when it comes to protecting people’s lives and livelihoods, we must rapidly shift away from fossil fuels like coal to clean energy sources. People on low-incomes must be supported.
‘’It is disappointing that the most effective and least costly policy to reduce carbon pollution – a price on carbon – seems to be off the political agenda.
“We welcomed recent government announcements to curb poor retail electricity pricing, but ongoing failure to implement a plan to transition equitably to clean affordable energy is contributing to electricity price rises and leaving low-income households unable to benefit from home solutions like rooftop solar.
“While we welcome the announced measures to improve energy efficiency, the biggest opportunities that will make the biggest difference to people and emissions have been overlooked.
“The government should be working with COAG on implementing mandatory energy efficiency standards for rental properties, co-funding energy efficiency and solar in new and existing social housing and Indigenous communities, and providing funds for homeowners on low-incomes to invest in solar and use energy more efficiently.
“Climate change is a social justice and intergenerational equity issue. We cannot afford continue to tinker around the edges. Genuine action and support is needed.”