Address to the Climate Action Network Australia Conference

 Speaking notes for

The Hon Greg Hunt MP

Shadow Minister for Climate Change,
Environment and Urban Water

Address to the Climate Action Network Australia Conference

Developing a Solar Continent

28 April 2008




  • Climate change is real, it is important, it is fundamental.
  • Climate change presents us with two great challenges – both are major but achievable challenges:
    • first, to allow the poor of the world to develop and achieve the benefits of a modern economy and to encourage the continued improvement of health, freedom and prosperity in the already developed societies
    • second, to progressively shift from a high emissions to a low emissions economy.
  • Managing climate change will be one of the great challenges of our time: it represents an important economic shift, and will require a portfolio of responses
    • in Australia’s case, we are moving toward the progressive pricing in of the cost of carbon into the way our economy operates.  This is ‘big history’ in the making – perhaps the most significant economic decision in a generation
    • with such a profound change, we need to make sure we get our policy responses right.
  • But the challenge goes beyond an economic shift: it will also require a fundamental shift in the mindset of every Australian, as each of us makes the adjustment to life in a carbon-constrained world.
  • Today I want to talk to you about these challenges and opportunities, in three parts
    • firstly, the international response required to meet the challenges of climate change
    • secondly, our domestic response
    • and thirdly, I want to focus in particular on renewable energy, and the enormous potential this sector has in Australia.
      • In particular, I want to lay the foundations for our vision of developing Australia as a Solar Continent
  • I also want to argue that despite its symbolic action, the reality is that the new Government is climate lazy, repeatedly re-announcing existing projects such as the Mildura solar concentrator without acknowledging that they were identified and funded by the Liberal/National Government

1.1 Global Impact of Climate Change

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published last year reaffirmed the link between human activity and increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
    • global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide for the last 650,000 years have had a natural range of between 180 and 300 parts per million
      • this has now increased to 379 parts per million in 2005, and rising
    • by 2100, the average global temperature could increase between 1.8°C and 4°C from 1980-1999 levels
      • for the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected globally
    • by 2100 average global sea levels may rise between 18 and 59 centimetres.
  • The IPCC found that the world has, on average, warmed 0.7ºC over the past century
    • this underscores clearly that we need to act to adapt to the impacts of global warming in coming years to reduce our exposure to the risks.
  • So we need to act now and make a concerted and intensified commitment both domestically and internationally
    • the task is to encourage transition to a low emissions future while pursuing continued modernisation in both the developed and developing worlds.
  • The starting point for any response is to recognise that out of the total annual global emissions of 40 billion tonnes of CO2, Australia contributes 560 million tonnes of CO2 or 1.4 per cent
    • in short, we have an important role in Australia, but the solution must be global.

1.2 Foundations of an International Response

  • Our foundation stone must be an effective international approach to climate change, particularly in terms of mitigation.
  • Australia has long aimed to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 108 per cent of 1990 levels by 2008-12
    • and we are tracking to meet this target – with emissions in 2005 being only 2.2 per cent above 1990 levels
      • indeed, in 1990, emissions of CO2 or equivalent gases were 550 million tonnes
      • in both 2004 and 2005, they were 560 million tonnes
    • we are doing better than almost all developed countries in meeting our international targets
      • unlike many countries, we are meeting our goals on the basis of national actions alone
      • in light of this achievement the Labor Party should explain why it has been silent about countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Spain and others who are failing to meet their targets, while until recently, attacking Australia which is one of very few developed countries to be meeting our targets.
  • That is why the global response to climate change must involve:
    • all major emitters of greenhouse gases
    • avoid distortions of economic activity and emissions with no environmental benefits, and
    • should recognise different national circumstances.
  • In Bali we endorsed the Bali Roadmap for a post-Kyoto Agreement well before the new Government
    • we did so based on five principles which were enshrined in the Draft Roadmap:
      • inclusion of developing world countries, especially China, India, Indonesia and Brazil, in any future greenhouse reduction commitment regimes
      • no binding developed world targets in the 2007 document
      • no specific target for Australia in the 2007 road map even if only indicative
      • ability to do the economic modelling before Australia even considers any possible future commitments
      • inclusion of incentives against developing world deforestation and incentives for developing world reforestation.
  • Against that background, the need for a more inclusive post-2012 agreement is demonstrated by the addition of 800 new coal-fired power stations in China and India over the coming five years
    • the combined emissions from these plants will be five times the total reductions in CO2  mandated by the current international system
    • equally damaging, the current international system has established a perverse incentive to literally slash and burn rainforests – which hold on average 900 tonnes of CO2  per hectare – and replace them with palm oil plantations, which hold less than 300 tonnes of CO2  per hectare.
  • Our approach as an alternative Government to international efforts to address climate change will therefore be based on five pillars:
    • working with key countries
    • the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP)
    • forests
    • APEC, and
    • global action.

1.2.1  Working with key countries

  • The first pillar of our international efforts must be bilateral cooperation with key partners.
  • Australia under the Coalition Government concluded a number of climate action partnerships and similar arrangements that are focussed on developing practical joint activities to address climate change.
  • Our work with China on coal is a good example
    • China is already the world’s largest coal market – twice as large as the US
    • it is also the world’s fastest growing coal consumer – in 2006 China consumed twice as much coal as it did six years ago
    • and coal will continue to supply more than half of China’s energy needs for decades to come.
  • A response to climate change that does not include China and coal is no solution at all.  That’s why we began working co-operatively with China to develop clean coal solutions.
  • And why we established the Australia-China Joint Coordination Group on Clean Coal Technology to provide further strategic guidance, oversight, and impetus to a range of existing clean coal activities in Australia and China.
  • We believe Australia should now help others, especially in our region, to adapt to the future impacts of climate change
    • the least developed countries are also the least likely to be able to respond to the impacts of a changing climate
    • we need to engage them still further to build their national capacity in adapting
    • our development assistance program is continuing our lead of helping the small island countries of the Pacific better plan for and respond to changes in climate.

1.2.2 Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate

  • The Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, the APP, is a combined effort between Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States to address energy, climate change and air pollution issues.
  • The APP focuses on practical action to develop and deploy low emissions technologies
    • it is well-placed to do this because it brings governments and industry together
    • and it already has more than 90 collaborative projects underway.
  • Under the previous Government, Australia committed $150 million for APP work, and at the election, allocated $100 million of this to support 63 practical APP projects
    • including a CSIRO project to develop Post-Combustion Capture Technology which, if successfully deployed, will capture 95 per cent of CO2  emissions from power stations.
  • The APP matters because the Partners account for about half of the world’s GDP, population, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions
    • we urge the new Government to continue and build on this key vehicle.

1.2.3 Forests

  • Another focus of our policy is deforestation
    • globally more than 4.4 million trees are lost to deforestation each day
    • deforestation in developing countries is responsible for around 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, or up to eight billion tonnes of CO2 –equivalent gases per year
    • halving deforestation could reduce annual emissions by up to four billion tonnes which is up to seven times Australia’s total annual emissions.
  • That is why in March last year we launched the Global Initiative on Forests and Climate to support practical and immediate action to reduce global deforestation and promote reforestation.
  • As part of the Initiative, the Coalition Government committed $200 million in new funding
    • $30 million of this was allocated to the $100 million Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership with Indonesia and private sector partners including BHP Billiton.  The Partnership aims to:
      • preserve 70,000 hectares of peat land forests in Indonesia’s Kalimantan region
      • re-flood 200,000 hectares of dried peat land
      • plant up to 100 million new trees on rehabilitated peat land for conservation purposes and
      • cut emissions by 700 million tonnes over 30 years
    • another $11.7 million of the Global Initiative on Forests and Climate funding was allocated to the World Bank’s new Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, with another $10 million to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and promote sustainable forest management in Indonesia
    • this funding has the potential to remove up to 40 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • This agreement is the largest greenhouse abatement project to flow so far from the Global Initiative on Forests and Climate.
  • Significantly, Labor has been deathly silent about the failure of the current international system to guard against perverse incentives for the wholesale slaughter of rainforests, the release of billions of tonnes of CO2, and their replacement with palm oil plantations.  It is an odd and curious silence
    • indeed, Labor’s silence on the destruction of rainforests makes it compliant
    • it is time to end the destruction of our great global forests and to reduce the tragic incentives for deforestation about which Mr Rudd has been silent
    • in particular, I urge the Labor Party to continue the Global Initiative on Forests and Climate
    • I also urge it to support our proposal for a Global Rainforest Recovery Plan.

1.2.4  APEC

  • The APEC Leaders Summit in Sydney last September laid down one of the two key foundation stones for a new global agreement on climate change, through the historic Sydney Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development
    • the first foundation stone was an agreement between the United States and Europe on a way forward on climate – achieved at last year’s G8 Summit in Germany
    • the second foundation stone was the Sydney Declaration brokered at APEC by Australia – between the United States, China and the countries of the Asia Pacific.
  • Importantly, at Sydney APEC Leaders agreed that an equitable and effective post-2012 climate change arrangement must draw on seven principles:
    • first, the principle of comprehensiveness: all economies to contribute to shared global goals in ways that are equitable, and environmentally and economically effective
    • second, the need to respect different domestic circumstances and capacities
    • third, the importance of flexibility and recognising diverse approaches and practical actions
    • fourth, the important role for co-operation on low and zero emissions energy sources and technologies, particularly coal and other fossil fuels
    • fifth, the importance of addressing forests and land use in the post-2012 arrangement
    • sixth, the importance of promoting open trade and investment, and
    • seventh, the importance of support for effective adaptation strategies.
  • APEC Leaders also agreed to work towards achieving an APEC-wide aspirational goal to reduce energy intensity by at least 25 per cent by 2030, and an APEC-wide aspirational goal of increasing forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forest by 2020
    • if we achieve that goal, it would be like storing approximately 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to around 11 per cent of annual global emissions.

1.2.5  Global Action

  • The international community’s first attempts to address climate change, with short term targets for developed countries, have not proved particularly successful
    • developing countries, including some of the world’s biggest emitters such as India and China, have no greenhouse abatement obligations
    • as a result, greenhouse emissions are still expected to rise by around 40 per cent over 1990 levels by 2012.
  • That is why an opportunity now exists to create a genuinely inclusive post-2012 agreement, and Australia can and should be one of the drivers of this process.
  • As an alternative Government we believe that Australia must work for a post 2012 agreement which ends the perverse incentives for deforestation and includes all major emitters, be they developed or developing countries.



  • Not only must we act internationally, we must also act domestically.


2.1 Domestic Impact of Climate Change

  • We recognise that Australia is vulnerable to climate change
    • irrespective of any climate effects, we occupy what is naturally the driest inhabited continent with a highly variable climate and great susceptibility to drought
    • shifting rainfall patterns have profound environmental impacts and will, over time, change patterns of economic activity, starting with agriculture.
  • Last year’s IPCC report found that climate change may result directly or indirectly in:
    • decreased water security in southern Australia
    • negative impacts on biodiversity, especially in the Alpine region and the Great Barrier Reef, and
    • more frequent extreme weather events such as cyclones.
  • Australia has a vital interest in the form of any emerging global response
    • at the same time, we need to recognise that Australia’s natural resource and fossil fuel–energy endowments, and access to cheap energy, have helped underpin our economic growth and prosperity.
  • And we need to take domestic action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to complement our international response, while not betraying the prosperity of current or future generations.
  • Against this background, the global build up of CO2 is an externality caused by a market failure to price the long term costs of emissions
    • the task is now therefore to harness the historic capacity of the market to produce lowest cost outcomes as the means of most effectively reducing our emissions.

2.2  Emissions Trading

  • Perhaps the most important domestic policy was the decision of the Howard Government that Australia will implement a national carbon trading system.
  • The Task Group on Emissions Trading, established by the previous Government, concluded that Australia should not wait until a genuinely global agreement has been negotiated.
  • It concluded that there would be benefits, which outweigh the costs, of early adoption by Australia of an appropriate emissions regime.
  • The Task Group was also firmly of the view that the most efficient and effective way to manage risk would be through market mechanisms
    • it argued that, over time, market responsiveness would drive improved energy efficiency and the development and adoption of new and existing low-emissions technologies.
  • When Australia establishes its carbon trading system, it will be able to benefit from the experience (good and bad) of other systems.
  • The announcement in September last year by the previous Government of a new national Clean Energy Target was another important step towards a comprehensive national emissions trading scheme.
  • Importantly, the Coalition pledged to establish a Climate Change Fund to re-invest a substantial proportion of emissions trading revenues in:
    • clean energy technology, and
    • support for households most affected by the impact of a price on carbon, in particular low income families and pensioners.
  • We hope that the new Government will take up this proposal.

2.3  Practical Steps in Cutting Emissions

  • I want to point out that the previous Government took revolutionary domestic action on climate change during its period in office
    • it committed around $3.4 billion to address the issue
    • including $741 million over five years announced in the 2007-08 Budget
    • the outcome was to help reduce Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 87 million tonnes per annum by 2010
      • the same as eliminating each year Australia’s emissions from the transport sector.
  • Over the past 20 years governments and landholders have also taken major steps to improve sustainable land management
    • reduced land clearing for sustainable land management has resulted in a significant decline in greenhouse gas emissions
    • Australia has reduced annual CO2 emissions from deforestation by 59 per cent between 1990 and 2005, and further reductions are projected.
  • Overall Australia has reduced its emissions per capita from 1990 to 2005 by 14.4 per cent
    • and greenhouse gas emission intensity, expressed as emissions per dollar of GDP, declined by 36.7 per cent in this period.

2.3.1  Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund

  • To bring on the technologies that will make large cuts in emissions feasible, our Party implemented the $500 million Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund
    • the Fund has already leveraged over $3 billion in private sector investment and supported significant projects, including the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project
    • according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change new low emissions power plants with carbon capture and storage have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants by approximately 80-90 per cent, including taking into account the energy requirements for capture
    • without clean goal and clean gas technology, the world will simply not solve climate change.
  • Given the need for great investment in climate change solutions, I have been extremely disappointed to see that one of the first acts of the new Government was to cut $50 million from important climate change programs:
    • $42 million from the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program;
    • $5 million from the Asia-Pacific Network for Energy Technology; and
    • $2.2 million from the Low Emissions Technology and Abatement fund.
  • Such cut-backs from programs that provide practical responses to combating climate change are in stark contrast to the symbolism we saw from the ALP in the lead up to the election.

2.3.2  Energy Efficiency

  • We are also committed to energy efficiency
    • we led the world in announcing the phase out of inefficient incandescent light bulbs
      • the phase-out will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated four million tonnes of CO2 -equivalent per annum by 2015
        • the equivalent of removing 800,000 vehicles from our roads
    • Australia’s Energy Efficiencies Opportunities Act requires large energy-using companies to carefully analyse and report on their options to improve energy efficiency
    • in addition we introduced energy efficiency requirements for all new buildings and enhanced the requirements for residential buildings to a     5-star level in the Building Code of Australia
      • these efforts are projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 9.4 million tonnes of CO2 -equivalent by 2020.

2.4  Adaptation

  • Of course no matter what we do on emissions reduction we will need to adapt to new circumstances.
  • The anticipated regional variations in these impacts demand that adaptation measures are tailored and localised and we have responded to this challenge already
    • in Government we committed $10 billion to improving the sustainability of water use in Australia – a desirable end in any event
      • Confronted with a once in a century revolution in water management, the 14 month delay imposed by the  Labor States in achieving a national agreement on the Murray Darling was one of the most cynical political actions of recent decades

3.  RENEWABLE ENERGY: Developing a Solar Continent
3.1  Importance of Renewables

  • There is one more part of Australia’s domestic response to climate change which I would like to talk about today, and that is renewable energy.
  • I have often spoken in the past about clean coal and the urgent need for the Rudd Government to support the development of commercially viable clean coal in Australia though adoption of a Clean Energy Target. The present policy approach will simply guarantee that we do not clean up our power stations.
    • it is therefore deeply irresponsible of the Rudd Government to neglect the development of Australian clean coal technology by excluding any adoption mechanism
    • we will therefore continue to urge the Government to change its position and support an adoption mechanism to bring forward the clean up of our coal and gas power stations as the single most important and practical way that we can significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
  • But clean coal is not enough.  We must, as a nation, make a greater commitment to renewable energy
    • solar, wind, wave and geothermal energy have enormous potential to contribute to a low-emissions economy in Australia, if we can both protect our existing energy supplies by cleaning them up and add to new energy through renewable options.
      • we are a hot, dry, sun-drenched country, surrounded by oceans.  We could not be better placed to lead the world in the development and uptake of renewable energy.
    • It is important to note here that we are already one of the world’s leading renewable energy producers.  The MRET scheme introduced under the previous government built on existing hydro schemes to bring forward additional renewable energy schemes with over 1000 megawatts of additional capacity and much more to come.

3.2 Coalition Government Achievements

  • The previous Coalition Government recognised the importance of renewable energy, and supported it with practical action:
    • establishing in 2001 a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), the first of its kind, which generated $3.5 billion in investment in renewable energy
    • establishing a Clean Energy Target which calls for 15 per cent of energy to come from clean energy sources
    • investing $75 into the Solar Cities program for Adelaide, Townsville, Blacktown, Alice Springs and Central Victoria, and
    • creating the $500 million Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund.
  • These were practical programs that produced tangible results.  But more now needs to be done. 
  • The Coalition is committed to encouraging renewable energy use in Australia and over the coming months we will be developing detailed policy on these areas
    • we are confident about the future of renewable energy, but we are also realistic, and responsible. 

3.3  Solar and Geothermal: A Vision for a Solar Continent

  • Today I would like to speak about two types of renewable energy that hold great potential for Australia: solar power and geothermal, or hot dry rock energy.
  • There is no country in the world better placed than Australia to benefit from the further development of solar power
    • our geography, our people, our technology and our resources all make us a natural leader in solar technology, and the Coalition believes we should aim for nothing less than to create in Australia the world’s first solar continent.
  • To achieve this vision of a solar continent, we need to advance on two major fronts:
    • First, we must assist help meet our peak load energy capacity through the decentralisation of small scale energy production.  In short when homes, schools and towns are able to produce peak load energy through photovoltaic energy in times of high heat, we have a peak energy production mechanism which is both distributed and at its most effective in times of peak energy need.  That is why we will be building on our policies for Solar Homes, Solar Schools and Solar Cities.
  • Second and on a more long-term time frame, we need to build on our initiatives to date and set an objective of leading the world in developing large-scale solar power stations.
  • That is why the previous Coalition Government invested $79.5 million to develop a solar concentrator in Mildura
    • A program which the Rudd Government cynically tried to re-announce as their own in February this year.  Indeed, without adding a dollar or acknowledging that the previous Government put in almost $80million, they presented an Orwellian case of how they were committed to Solar and the previous Government was not!
      • It’s part of a pattern of deceit we are seeing from the Rudd Government.
      • After alleging inaction by the Coalition on climate issues, ironically they are relying on our initiatives.  In short for all of their rhetoric, in reality they are climate lazy
        • Another example is a $20 million clean coal project with China.
        • John Howard announced Australia-China Joint Coordination Group on Clean Coal Technology in January 2007 and $20m in September
        • Mr Rudd and his Climate Change Minister re-announced the initiative and the funding as if it were new during their recent China trip.
  •  Against this background we will be developing our Solar Continent Policy over the coming year focussed on four themes:
    • Solar Homes
    • Solar Schools
    • Solar Cities and in the longer term
    • Solar Base Load


3.3.1  Solar Homes

  • Solar energy – photovoltaic (PV) panels – offer Australia’s best, most immediate, and most efficient means to provide zero emissions energy during periods of peak power use
    • reducing emissions, and reducing the need for new, high emissions power stations to cope with increasing demand.
  • In this context we want to set a clear policy direction of substantially increasing the take up of Solar PV throughout Australia. 
    • In short, we want to set Australia on a path to being a country where everyone willing to invest is within reach of running a solar home
  • Thanks to the Coalition Government, Australians already have a rebate of up to $8,000 to install renewable solar energy in their homes
    • this was a doubling of the previous $4,000 rebate.
  • It is now time to build on the success of the rebate and prepare a draft plan for a national solar feed-in tariff – a guaranteed rate of pay for solar electricity fed back into the grid by small generators, including private households
    • In his recent article “German sun powers a revolution”, Andrew McCathie reports that Germany has already used a renewable energy tariff to increase solar power uptake, and today is the world leader in solar energy generation – even though the country is covered by heavy clouds for two thirds of the year
      • Germany has over 40,000 people employed in PV cell production and installation and is the number one producer of PV cells in the world.
  • To date South Australia and Queensland have approved solar energy feed-in tariffs, which guarantee 44 cents per kWh of solar energy
    • but we should be aiming for more than a piecemeal approach
    • a national solar feed-in tariff could provide an immediate boost to domestic solar power uptake.
  • We can also do more to encourage Australians to take up solar hot water
    • A solar hot water heater can reduce domestic water heating energy use by two thirds
    • solar hot water systems can supply at least 80 per cent of a home’s hot water needs, reducing the need for gas or electric water heaters
  • Today, just 5 per cent of Australian homes have solar hot water heaters.
    • This is why the Coalition Government introduced a $1,000 rebate for the installation of household solar hot water heaters

This was an important first step, but over the coming year we will be developing additional measures to encourage the development of Solar Homes.

3.3.2  Solar Schools

  • The Coalition also believes that every Australia school should use solar power wherever possible
    • not just to reduce emissions, but to teach our future generations about the value of responsible energy use, so as to better equip them for life in a carbon-constrained world.
  • That’s why, when in government, the Coalition announced the Green Voucher for Schools program, part of a $336 million program in which all Australian primary and secondary schools would receive funding of up to $50,000 to help install rainwater tanks and solar hot water systems
    • the new Government initially scrapped this valuable program.
    • after we explained how their scrapping would disadvantage schools, they reinstated our program but renamed it.

Over the next year we will in fact be developing further ways of working with schools to advance their solar energy production.

    • Perhaps more importantly, we aim to engage and help inspire the next generation of solar scientists and entrepreneurs.

3.3.3 Solar Cities

  • While in Government, the Coalition established Australia’s first Solar Cities.
  • Across Adelaide, Townsville, Blacktown, Alice Springs and Central Victoria, the Solar Cities program was designed to fully integrate energy efficiency into our communities, and included:
    • 3,464 solar PV panels to be installed on private and public housing, and on commercial and iconic buildings
    • 4,100 solar hot water systems to be installed in private and public housing
    • 15,100 smart meters to give residential customers real-time information on energy use
    • 8,450 energy efficiency consultations to be conducted in households and businesses, and
    • 71,500 energy efficiency packs to be available for households and commercial customers to support their energy efficient choice.
  • The next wave of policy will be to take these programs and to establish a path for all Australian cities and towns to become Solar Centres over the coming years.

3.3.4  Solar Baseload

  • If we are truly to create in Australia the world’s first solar continent, we will need to ensure that we develop Solar Baseload power. Much needs to be done on this front in relation to cost, reliability and storage of energy.
    • I am however convinced that solar baseload can be developed to contribute to average daily base energy needs and over time energy storage technology can be developed to allow full base load operation derived from solar energy
    • The real challenge will be the time frame and the cost for bringing forward major solar baseload power stations
  • It is for this reason that the Coalition supported the Mildura Solar Concentrator
    • the 154MW solar concentrator will be the largest, most efficient solar power station in the world
    • it will generate 270,000 MWh each year, enough to power 45,000 homes, with zero emissions
    • it is estimated that the power plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions at fossil fuel power stations by well over 400,000 tonnes per year.
    • But more is needed.  We will be building on our vision and support for the world’s biggest solar concentrator by developing a clear set of initiatives both for the development and the adoption of baseload solar technology.


3.3.5 Geothermal

  • There is one other form of renewable energy I would like to mention today, and that is geothermal (hot dry rock) energy.  I will focus on wind, wave, tidal and other forms of power in coming months.
  • A summation of the Clean Energy Council’s description of Geothermal technology is that the technology “requires water or another heat transfer medium to be pumped into fractured rock deep underground.  Heat emanating from inside the earth turns the water into steam, which in turn is used to generate electricity”
    • geothermal power is an enormous opportunity for Australia
      • Geodynamics has estimated that alone the Cooper Basin has a thermal resource estimated to be equivalent to 50 billion barrels of oil.  This compares with Australia’s current total oil reserves of 2.9 billion barrels.
  • Indeed, geothermal energy has the mid-term potential in Australia to provide significant new base load power sources for Australia.  It may however take a decade for such production to be in place at significant levels
    • Importantly it could produce significant quantities of electricity unrestrained by environmental conditions that inhibit renewable energy technologies at the surface.
  • The Clean Energy Council reports that there are currently at least 16 companies working on geothermal exploration in Australia
    • and one 140 kilowatt geothermal energy production facility in Birdsville, Queensland
    • several other facilities are planned within the next five years, and around $570 million of mostly private funds are currently earmarked for investment in geothermal development
      • Over the long term, on some estimates, the 500 MW geothermal project in the Cooper Basin mooted by Geodynamics is projected to produce energy at around 50 cents per MWh, a price comparable to baseload gas costs.
  • But at present geothermal technology is yet to be commercially proven, and obstacles remain, including expensive drilling costs and heavy infrastructure requirements.
  • Against this background, the Coalition is developing policy to build on the support we provided in Government and ensure we do everything we can to help achieve a commercially viable geothermal power industry in Australia.


    • We recognise climate change is a long-term strategic issue for Australia, our region and the world
    • we need to work on both cleaning up our energy and adapting to any effects.
    • Climate change has to be tackled on a variety of fronts
    • the challenges it presents us with are diverse
    • business and government must work together to ensure we create an effective, viable emissions trading system
    • and all Australians will have to make individual changes to adapt to the challenges of climate change.
    • We need effective international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
    • and that action has to include all major players
    • just as it must genuinely recognise differences in national circumstances.
    • And we need domestic policies that support our overall goal.
    • I believe that the only way forward is by an historic partnership between government, business and the community
    • this is ‘big history’ in the making, and we will be judged by future generations on how we respond.
    • And as part of that big history, we have the potential to make Australia a Solar Continent with both peak and base load capacity over time.