Draft Energy White Paper Reactions – Solar Sold Short

Reactions to the recently released Australian Government’s Draft Energy White Paper have been many and varied – and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson’s enthusiasm for nuclear power didn’t go unnoticed.
    
Speaking at the launch of the Draft Energy White Paper on Tuesday, Minister Ferguson commented, “If we get to the end of this debate some years in the future, and we haven’t made the necessary breakthrough on clean energy at a low-cost outcome, then nuclear is there for Australia to buy off the shelf after a debate”, says the Herald Sun
  
The comments were interesting given the increasing evidence nuclear power may not be so cheap after all and the still-unfolding disaster occurring at the Fukushima nuclear power station – a disaster that could cost around $257 billion.
    
The Paper and the Minister’s comments came under attack from the Greens. 
   
“The Minister’s bias against renewable energy is evident throughout. The figures the paper cites on the cost of solar are out by a factor of at least two or three,” said Christine Milne, Australian Greens Climate Change and Energy spokesperson.
  
The cost of solar power being overestimated in various reports has become a common issue as some analysts work with figures a few years old – ancient history in the solar sector given the pace of development and price reductions in solar components recently.
  
Senator Milne said that Australians “must engage this report and see that it is rewritten in the nation’s best interest.”
  
John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES), also believes solar was sold short.
  
“The White Paper has seriously underplayed the importance of solar to Australia’s future. The White Paper forecasts $240bn to be spent on the network and generation by 2030, which means just one thing – electricity prices are going up. Householders understand this, and against a backdrop of solar price decreases they are voting ‘with their solar panels’”.
  
“Solar is the energy future, and that needs to be reflected in the final White Paper,” said Mr. Grimes.
  
Professor Ray Wills of the Solar Energy Association (SEA) commented, “While the draft Energy White Paper frequently mentions renewable energy, it is hardly bullish on the expected share of renewable energy in the longer term, yet there is already strong data suggesting significant moves for electricity generation from renewable sources in Australia has started.”
  
An interesting statistic in the White Paper was highlighted by The Australian – it appears every extra 2-kilowatt electric air conditioner plugged in to mains supply could be imposing extra costs on the electricity network of up to $7000 due to new generation capacity required – capacity that may be used only a few times a year.
 
Regarding this information, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) commented; “We are doubtful that Australia’s big energy users will take as much interest in this issue as they have in solar feed-in tariffs.”  
 
The CEC also noted the continuing use of out-dated modelling that has consistently under-estimated the rate of development and cost reduction in the renewables sector.