The 407-kilowatt Singleton Solar Farm was completed in 1998 along with the 70-kilowatt Sydney Super Dome as part of Australia’s drive towards “Green Power” for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Back in 1998, it was the largest grid connected solar system in the southern hemisphere and allowed Energy Australia and the minute Australian renewable energy industry to provide products and services into our first large scale project.
Andrew Thaler, a young entrepreneur and altruistic businessman recently purchased the aging Singleton farm and has spent many months refurbishing it and bringing it back up to full operation. Thaler, like all business people, needs policy certainty and clarity to make sensible decisions to ensure a reasonable return on investment.
The Howard government first introduced the Renewable Energy Target in 2000/01, initially setting a target of two per cent. Over time, the target has been incrementally increased to where it sits now at 20 per cent as we as a nation grapple with the issue of climate change and reducing our inherent reliance on coal and other fossil fuels. The performance of the Renewable Energy Target and the other complementary emission reduction initiatives are critical to Australia meeting its international Kyoto commitment of a five per cent reduction in electricity consumption by 2020.
Such measures are also crucial to assist Australian businesses and households expand and diversify the Australian economy and encourage more sustainable innovation and longer term pollution free growth. It is also a critical national and inter-generational issue that we need to deal with today rather than ignore by passing the pollution debt onto the next generation.
I hear countless conservative voters who work in the renewables sector dismayed by the government’s approach to renewables in Australia – especially given their pre-election commitments. The renewables sector is full of innovative and entrepreneurial business people that want to conserve the environment as well as make a living.
Projects like the Singleton Solar Farm along with the expertise of the remote area power industry were the first movers, entrepreneurs and innovators who underpinned the now mature grid connected renewable and solar energy industry.
There are over 2 million homes with solar PV or solar water heating installed on their homes, which equates to 24 per cent of all Australian homes. This growth, the shift in consumption patterns and changing paradigm of how our electricity industry delivers energy is a direct result of the Renewable Energy Target. It is making Australians more personally responsible for the way they consume electricity. The “age of entitlement” is over and the Renewable Energy Target is a positive driver.
There is a new level of co-operation and inclusion within the renewable energy sector. The electricity utilities are now asking that new solar systems be installed on the west side of roofs to assist electricity network deliver energy during their expensive peak demand periods. Solar panels' peak electricity output parallels the air-conditioning load on the electricity networks. We are watching innovation, entrepreneurship and growth at its best.
Let’s keep the Renewable Energy Target as is, because it’s working!