Australia’s new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, might mean better days are ahead for the country’s renewable energy industry.
Malcolm Turnbull took power from the previous Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in a leadership contest last week. At the time, it was unclear what Malcolm Turnbull’s stance on climate change and renewable energy would be, with conflicting evidence suggesting succor for both sides of the argument. However, after revealing his new cabinet, the new Prime Minister’s motives are becoming a little clearer.
Speaking to radio station 774 ABC Melbourne on Monday, newly elevated Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Minister Josh Frydenberg told host Jon Faine that “clearly renewable energy is a key part of our energy platform.” Frydenberg added that “I think wind farms, I think solar, I think they all have a role to play.”
This isn’t the biggest surprise, but after Malcolm Turnbull said on the night he acquired leadership of the Liberal Party that the existing climate policy was “very well designed” and “a very good piece of law” there were questions over what the new administrations view towards the climate and renewable energy would be.
“Don’t play it up to be bigger than it is Jon, what I’m saying is that we as a Coalition Government have entered into a bipartisan agreement with the Labor Party, on a 23.5% renewable energy target by 2020, this will see a doubling of large scale renewable energy.
“I’m saying that we have a commitment to renewable energy, that existed under the Abbott Government and will exist under the Turnbull Government, and my good friend and colleague [Environment Minister] Greg Hunt will be driving that agenda in many respects.
Sadly, there seems to be no suggestion right now that coal will be any less of an important aspect of Australia’s energy and export solutions:
“When you talk about coal, that’s a very important part of our energy mix, both here at home as well as overseas and will continue to be because it creates thousands of jobs and is an important source of electricity for much of the developing world.
“I don’t see these issues as mutually exclusive.”
Nevertheless, despite this, there is hope in the renewable energy industry as a result of these moves. In a press release published on Monday, Australia’s Clean Energy Council said that it was looking forward to working with “Energy and Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg, as well as continuing its strong relationship with Environment Minister Greg Hunt.” Specifically, Clean Energy Council Policy Manager Darren Gladman welcomed the new Government’s rhetoric about increasing the agility of Australia’s economy to leverage new opportunity and embrace change.
“The last decade has already seen great change in the way we produce and use energy across the globe,” Mr Gladman said. “Australia is well placed to take advantage of these changes, and the renewable energy industry is looking forward to working with Minister Frydenberg, whose early comments show that he recognizes the growing economic contribution of clean energy like wind, solar, bioenergy and energy efficiency. We are also looking forward to continuing our relationship with Environment Minister Greg Hunt, whose support was critical in restoring bipartisan support to the national Renewable Energy Target (RET).”
“Australia has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, and we believe the new Cabinet can see the job and investment benefits of these newer forms of energy for rural and regional areas of the country. Clean energy generated US$310 billion in investment around the world last year, and we will be working with the government to attract as much of that benefit to Australia’s economy as possible. Under the RET, the amount of renewable energy across the country will approximately double over the next five years. It’s an exciting time to be working in this industry.”
The shift in Australia’s leadership — which now not only includes a new Prime Minister, but also a number of new Cabinet position appointments — could bring a huge boost to Australia’s renewable energy industry. Under the leadership of Tony Abbott, Australia quickly found itself on the path to being a climate pariah, suffering condemnation from a large part of the global community, seeing a 70% and more decrease in renewable energy investment, and a plethora of companies pulling out of the country to seek more promising and secure ventures elsewhere.
In the end, a shift in leadership of the Liberal Party may not result in revolutionary changes to the country’s renewable energy industry, but as it stands, any change is good change.
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