Budget Fails Communities and Misses Opportunity to Make Australia a “Renewable Superpower”

Lighthouse Communications

Despite making promises of Australia becoming a world-leading renewable energy superpower in this week’s Federal Budget, the Government failed to deliver on the fundamentals for local communities. On budget and off budget spending is concentrated on perpetuating outdated infrastructural norms and neglecting pivotal advancements in renewable energy transmission technology.

While committing $22.7 billion over the coming decade to become a world leader in the energy transition, regional communities impacted by local energy projects say the Government has failed to support world leading transmission innovation and address energy policy failures at the expense of the environment and regional Australia.

Spokesperson for the Stop, Rethink, HumeLink campaign, Michael Katz, said Australia’s ambitions to lead the energy transition would continue to be an overreach while its current energy policy is not fit for purpose, the energy regulatory structure was a shambles, and it continued to support outdated, dangerous transmission technology.

“How can we really expect the world to treat us as a renewables leader, when we are a laughingstock among the world’s leading minds in energy given we continue to rely on old, last century overhead transmission lines which destroy the environment and start deadly bushfires?” Mr Katz said.

“A growing number of jurisdictions worldwide are actively burying their transmission and distribution lines, on the grounds they are better for environment, are more reliable and result in lower long-term costs.

“Yet here, we have Energy Ministers – some of whom are also tasked with being the guardian of Climate Change – ignoring expert advice on the benefits of undergrounding based purely on the advice of parties that have a commercial interest in continuing with the old model.

“The energy regulator’s emphasis on incentivising industries of the past rather than prioritising forward-thinking renewable initiatives is concerning.

“The persistent reliance on outdated transmission technologies, such as above-ground transmission lines, demonstrates a failure to modernise and adapt to the demands of a sustainable future.”

Mr Katz said while undergrounding would initially cost more upfront, independent advice from transmission experts shows that long-term cost-saving would neutralise these costs.

“Government’s default message so far to us and other communities calling on transmission to be run underground has been that the vastly better underground transmission solution is too expensive.

“Here they are spending many tens of billions – including $13.7 billion in production tax credits to mainly mining business and an extra $5 billion to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – plus a further $80 billion in investment vehicles that are off budget – including $7.3 billion for Snowy Hydro – on the ambition to become a green energy leader on the world stage. At the same time our own green energy transition is being built with dangerous and ultimately expensive last century technology,” Mr Katz said.

Mr Katz said we need a technology-neutral approach that fosters innovation across the board.

Mr Katz noted that an independent report by Amplitude Consultants found the 360km HumeLink transmission line – one of the key transmission projects identified by the Government – would cost an extra $2.4 billion to be developed underground compared to being run above ground but would be cheaper in the long run.

The cost is well below the quantum of two times the cost of going overhead that the Energy Minister Chris Bowen stated would make undergrounding HumeLink a feasible option.

“The Treasurer proudly declared the Government had energy policies to support the energy superpower ambitions, while at the same time the Government oversees a dysfunctional regulatory framework that is not fit for purpose.

“It is these antiquated methods and frameworks that will not only impede progress towards a sustainable future but also create larger environmental issues and increase economic risks.

“If this Government is really committed to being a superpower on the global energy stage, it needs to urgently review existing regulations, enhance them and ensure that our own transition to renewable energy is world-leading, supported by innovation, not infrastructure of yesteryear.”

/Public Release.