For more than 30 years myself and many other environmentalists, have advocated the necessity for research and development of alternative renewable energy systems. While the Federal Government poured millions of dollars into the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the HIFAR reactor at Lucas Heights near Sutherland in Sydney, funding for renewable energy systems was largely ignored.
With global warming accelerating caused by the release of greenhouse gases by coal fired power stations and the internal combustion engine, it is time to assess what the Federal Government has been doing. Companies specialising in alternative energy research and development are still chronically underfunded.
The present Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) in Australia for supply of renewable energy is just 2 per cent, as set by the Federal Government. By comparison, Scotland has set a target of 18 per cent of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2010 and 40 per cent by 2020. Europe increased its renewable energy targets in September 2005 from 20 percent to 25 percent by 2020. Even California under Arnie (the terminator) has a target of 20 per cent by 2017.
The government could immediately address global warming by raising the MRET to 10 per cent by 2010, and 30 per cent by 2020, as an initial measure to boost business investment in renewable energy to a reasonable world standard. This will also stimulate employment and development in regional areas.
The Howard Government has instead opted for a largely untried technology of carbon sequestration. This is a great money spinner for the mining industry. But is not an efficient use of resources.
I was down in South Gippsland recently, in the town of Wonthaggi. The Bass Coast Council has been fighting against the siteing of a six turbine wind farm located 3km from the town. The wind farm, when operational, will generate 12 megawatts power up to 80% of the time, providing electricity for up to 6000 homes - enough to supply the needs of all town residents and people living in the surrounding area. The Council argued the turbines will taint the view of Cape Patterson on the trip from Kilcunda to Wonthaggi and will affect the "recreational tourism and landscape values of the coastline".
When I looked back along the coast from Kilcunda to Wonthaggi, I saw the 65metre towers above the rugged coastline and was impressed with how easily they blended into the surroundings.
The Council lost its fight, and in the next couple of weeks the turbines will commence supplying power from the wind into the grid. Many of the locals can appreciate the benefits of wind power as Wonthaggi is an old coal mining town with memories of the dangers and diseases of coal mining inflicted on the community.
Meanwhile, the Bracks Labor Government of Victoria decided in September to continue the life of the Hazelwood Power station until 2031. Hazelwood is the world’s worst climate change polluting power station resulting in nearly 445 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution – the equivalent pollution from more than 105 million cars in a year.
Our politicians from both Labor and Liberal parties at the State and Federal levels are failing in their duties of planning and management of energy production and use, climate change, and environment. It is our children and grand children that will reap the costs of their blunders.