17/12/2008 - 22:00

Slow uptake of green initiatives

17/12/2008 - 22:00

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WESTERN Australia is one of the worst-performing states in the take-up of renewable energy, with just more than 8,000 customers signed up to an accredited GreenPower product in 2007.

Slow uptake of green initiatives

WESTERN Australia is one of the worst-performing states in the take-up of renewable energy, with just more than 8,000 customers signed up to an accredited GreenPower product in 2007.

As the federal government gears up for the introduction of its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme with this week's release of its white paper outlining emissions targets, the results are arguably a refection of the willingness of consumers to bear the extra cost associated with greener alternatives.

According to the 2007 GreenPower accreditation program annual compliance audit released this week, the number of customers signed to green power nationally almost doubled for the year, rising from 391,000 in 2006 to 740,000 in 2007.

New South Wales was the best-performing state in uptake of renewable energy while WA was only ahead of Tasmania, with 7,068 residential customers and 966 commercial customers in this state purchasing 56,462 megawatt hours of green power.

The latest figures from Synergy show that, to September 2008, about 8,894 customers were signed up to buy green power, representing just less than 1 per cent of its total customer base. That was an increase of 38 per cent on the previous year and a more than five-fold increase on September 2006.

Synergy head of corporate affairs Andrew Gaspar said while the proportion of WA customers taking up green power was low compared to other states, the amount of renewable energy purchased by WA green power customers was proportionately higher.

Research undertaken by Synergy showed that for the June 2008 quarter the average residential green power customer in WA purchased 954 kilowatt hours of green power, compared to the Australian Capital Territory (588kwh), Queensland (335kwh), NSW (242kwh) and Victoria (218kwh).

But the retailer does want more green power customers and is looking at ways to increase up-take.

"More accredited green power customers will drive further investment in the renewable energy industry," Mr Gaspar said.

The release of the audit coincides with the announcement that Horizon Power, PowerCorp and SunPower Australia will build two new solar stations, with a combined capacity of 1 gigawatt, in the Pilbara at a cost of $25 million.

Renewable power is set to play a key role in Australia's future energy mix.

Serving as a complementary measure to the CPRS, the renewable energy target will require 20 per cent of Australia's electricity to be sourced from renewable generators by 2020.

The government will support the deployment of large-scale renewable projects through the fast-tracking of its $500 million Renewable Energy Fund.

Under the CPRS, the government will commit to a medium-term national greenhouse gas emissions target of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by the end 2020, increasing to 15 per cent if action is taken by other countries.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief executive James Pearson said WA business was concerned the government has decided not to delay the scheme's 2010 introduction in light of current economic conditions.

"WA's energy intensive, trade-exposed industries will, for the foreseeable future, be largely responsible for guiding WA and the nation through the current economic uncertainty. It does not make sense to handicap them now," Mr Pearson said.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said questions still remained on the impact relative to its international competitors.

"Interim targets in the range of 5-15 per cent of 2000 levels are welcomed, but will be a big ask for industry without new low emissions technologies and a global agreement," he said.

Woodside chief executive Don Voelte acknowledged the government's recognition of the LNG industry as a sector likely to qualify for assistance under the scheme

Business will receive transitional support through the government's $2.15 billion Climate Change Action Fund.

The government's white paper also outlined a number of changes to the transitional assistance program for the energy intensive trade-exposed industries.

Coverage by permit allocation has been extended to activities that have at least 1,000 tonnes CO2 per million dollars of revenue, compared to 1,500t in the green paper released earlier this year, and allows companies the choice of using revenue or a value added based measure of emissions intensity.

The timing of the white paper couldn't have been better for Subiaco-based carbon sink provider Carbon Conscious Ltd, which this week received its approved abatement provider status under the federal government's Greenhouse Friendly program.

The company is the second to be awarded accreditation for planting mallee trees to generate carbon credits, joining fellow WA-based provider CO2 Australia.

Non-executive chairman Matt Birney expects the release of the white paper to stimulate further interest in accredited carbon offset opportunities.

"This is a huge boost for Carbon Conscious," Mr Birnie said. "Over the past 10 months our executives have been in front of every major emitter in Australia. A lot were waiting until the white paper came out. Now the timing for us couldn't be any better."

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