What Odds a Clean Energy Future for Australia?

By Rich Bowden

Two points of interest for SolarQuotes readers raised by the federal government this week over the future of energy in this country, one by the embattled PM and the other by her Climate Change Minister (and some would say a possible successor) Greg Combet.

It was the PM who got the solar ball rolling this week when she visited a blustery Gunning, ACT wind farm (minus the ubiquitous hard hat for once) to open the venture, an enterprise financially backed by Spanish sustainable energy company ACCIONA.

In her normal, run-of-the-mill, “God bless all who sail in her” style of speech, the PM started by thanking all and sundry, but was then reported as quoting from ACCIONA chief executive Jose Manuel who told her that 35 percent of his country’s energy comes from renewable sources.

But here lies the interesting part for Australian solar fans because, as the PM got into her stride, she continued to quote from Mr Manual.

“…as he remarked, we are a nation perfectly positioned to seize this clean energy future – a nation with a lot of land, a nation with a lot of wind, a lot of solar, with the power of the waves, and with geothermal.”

By quoting the number, can renewable energy fans assume the PM may indeed support a target of 35 percent energy from renewable sources? Well maybe….let’s listen to the PM continue as she cleverly links the issue that will probably decide the next election, to that elusive clean energy future.

“Putting a price on carbon will help us turbo-charge this clean energy future,” said Ms Gillard. “What it will mean is it will drive investment into clean energy sources, and we will be working, too, to maximise that investment through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – $10 billion, where a commercial board will work with private sector partners, so we see more clean energy developments.”

So its all about putting a price on carbon according to the PM. But what do other senior ministers say about solar energy as they traverse the nation trying to hawk the increasingly unpopular (or misunderstood) carbon tax.

In a flying visit to Lismore, Minister for Climate Change Greg Combet, one of Ms Gillard’s more articulate frontbenchers, told reporters that solar energy operators in the Northern Rivers region would benefit from the government’s carbon package.

“Solar seems to have a lot of support here, but at the end of the day it depends on the innovative capacity of people in the community to have a look at it and think how the Northern Rivers can benefit,” he was quoted as saying in local newspaper TheNorthernStar.

However like his leader, he appeared to link the success or otherwise of a local solar energy industry to a price on carbon saying “this is about Australia taking its part in tackling climate change by making an important environmental and economic reform by putting a price tag on carbon to provide an incentive to cut pollution and drive investment in clean energy sources.”

So there you have it, according to the government it is the price on carbon that will drive the future of the solar power industry in this country. That and good old fashioned Aussie entrepreneurial know how. But with the government increasingly “on the nose” electorally with the Australian public and even key independent Tony Windsor stating this week that he didn’t expect Labor to be returned to office, what are the chances of an Australian clean energy future like Spain.

Is it indeed geared to a carbon tax and can solar enthusiasts expect a bright (sorry) future under a Tony Abbott-led government? Please feel free to have your say either here, or at our Facebook Page. We’d love to hear from you.

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