CORANGAMITE MP Sarah Henderson has come out swinging in support of Australia’s renewable energy target (RET) but with a stern warning to wind farms.
The MP has backed the 20 per cent green energy target by 2020 — which is under commonwealth review — and has warned cuts to the target will harm the potential for her electorate and Geelong to recover from heavy job losses in the manufacturing sector.
Ms Henderson’s marginal seat includes the Mount Mercer wind farm but also solar panel maker IXL Solar, which employs six staff in Geelong.
The company, which has 34 staff in Adelaide, said it could employ up to a 150 workers if the RET was maintained.
“The RET is incredibly important in the development of large-scale solar farms. If it was abolished, some 40 people would immediately lose their jobs at IXL Solar. It would also threaten the capacity of IXL Solar to grow jobs at its Geelong factory,” Ms Henderson said.
The MP also tackled criticism that the target was driving up the price of power.
“While the RET is adding some cost to power bills currently, modelling conducted by ROAM Consulting as promoted by the Clean Energy Council shows that from 2020 the RET will help to drive down power bills,” she said.
Her comments are some of strongest remarks from the government in support of the RET, which has been criticised by some in the Coalition.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan has shown only tentative support for the policy, which underpins more than 100 jobs at Portland wind tower maker Keppel Prince.
More recently, Mr Tehan said the RET was putting jobs at Portland Aluminium at risk, unless the smelter could be exempted from the costs. Ms Henderson said “there may well be a case to exempt aluminium from the RET”.
There is also debate that the target should be lowered to a “true” 20 per cent — accounting for Australia’s lower power use by 2020.
Asked whether she opposed watering down the target, the MP said it had to be strong enough to attract investment.
Despite backing the target, Ms Henderson did fire several shots at wind farm developers.
“It is important to make clear that I am concerned about the conduct of some wind farm companies and the way in which they have caused so much division in some rural communities,” she sad.
“Waubra is perhaps the best example of a wind farm which caused so much damage and division. That Acciona decided to construct turbines so close to residential homes demonstrates how little regard it had for the local community.
“The Macarthur wind farm caused enormous damage to local roads. When it comes to the development of wind farms, the “community first” principle is a very important one.”