The Federal Department of Resources, Energy & Tourism, under pro-fossil fuels Minister Martin Ferguson, released a draft Energy White Paper in December last year after a lengthy consultation process which commenced with a draft Green Paper three years ago. The White Paper reviews Australia’s energy needs to 2030 and provides a policy framework for future energy development.
Unfortunately, the government has largely ignored the advantages and strong public support for renewable energy while failing to address the urgency of the transition away from fossil fuels. Read a critique by Friends of the Earth here and you can find the draft White Paper itself, including an executive summary here.
It’s not too late to have your say on Australia’s energy future. Submissions are due by 4pm 16 March 2012. Writing your own submission will have more impact – we have prepared some points to use below – but if you really don’t have time, click the blue button to use a ready-made template.
Key points to use in your submission
- Assumes a continued reliance on fossil fuels (supplying a min. 2/3 of Australia’s total energy consumption), thus locking Australia into escalating electricity prices as global demand for coal & gas rises
- Places too much emphasis on promoting the discovery and exploitation of new fossil fuel energy resources (for domestic use & export), rather than facilitating the development and expansion of renewable energy sources
- Uses outdated data for renewable energy costs and understates the potential for renewable energy to rapidly become cheaper than fossil fuels as the RE industry expands both in Australia and globally
- Substantially understates the potential for escalating oil prices in the face of peak oil (prices increased almost 3-fold between 2004 and 2011, yet the White Paper suggests less than a further doubling in price by 2035 and states peak oil is “unlikely to be reached before 2035”); assumes “oil will remain the primary energy source for the transport sector to 2035” (p.31)
- Ignores the scientific evidence that global greenhouse emissions need to peak before the end of this decade if global warming is to be held below 2 degrees
- Proposes continued export of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions via a massive increase in our exports of coal and gas (note also massive increase in uranium exports p. 35); i.e. gas is NOT replacing existing coal-fired electricity, it’s simply adding to total fossil fuel consumption (both in Aust & elsewhere) and making it increasingly unlikely that the agreed max. 2 degree global warming target can be achieved
- Assumes the availability of carbon capture & storage for continued use & expansion of coal-fired electricity, despite lack of evidence to support its feasibility or cost effectiveness at a national or global scale within the necessary timeframe
- Assumes substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions for gas compared with coal, despite uncertainty about fugitive emissions and lack of adequate data on life cycle emissions for coal seam gas
- Does little to change the dominant energy paradigm of over-reliance on large, centralised power stations at the expense of potentially more efficient, reliable & cheaper decentralised smaller-scale energy generation (according to a report by the University of Technology Sydney)
- Expansion of fossil fuel developments will result in increased water use, with electricity generators able to outbid agricultural users on the open water market (pp. 239-240)
- Over-reliance on (often flawed) market mechanisms to determine Australia’s electricity generation mix, rather than a more comprehensive and forward-thinking approach which facilitates a rapid transition to renewable energy technologies
- Dismisses proven, effective renewable energy policies (such as feed-in tariffs and Renewable Energy Targets) as “market distortions”
- Makes only vague commitments to “investigate possibility of a national energy savings initiative” and “progress work to look at energy efficiency governance structures” rather than giving these issues the clear commitment and priority that is required to reduce overall energy demand.
- Acknowledges the importance of existing programs aimed at improving energy efficiency (p.199)
- Community consultation plans will be required as a condition of grants under the Solar Flagships Program and Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program
- Energy policy settings will be actively monitored and refined as necessary to meet community requirements, and emphasis will be placed on raising energy literacy amongst consumers.
- Sharp summary by climate action group Rising Tide: blackfingerprints.org.au
- Critique by Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner, Ben Courtice: yes2renewables.org
- Comments from national grassroots 100% Renewable campaign: 100percent.org.au
- Coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald: news.smh.com.au
- Comments by Taegen Edwards, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute: arena.org.au
- Giles Parkinson’s appraisal in Climate Spectator: climatespectator.com.au
- “Think small and kick out coal” – Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS: climatespectator.com.au
- Overview of reactions to the White Paper by Energy Matters: energymatters.com.au