Taxpayers will have paid more than $60 billion through federal renewable energy subsidies by 2030, about twice what the crumbling car industry received over 15 years and enough to build about 10 large nuclear reactors.
The government’s large and small-scale renewable energy targets, which will compel energy retailers to buy 33 terawatt hours of wind, solar and hydro energy by 2030, will deliver about $45bn of subsidies to renewable energy producers over 20 years, according to analysis by The Australian.
The grab bag of direct subsidies from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation — which have spent or lent concessionally, respectively, $870 million in grants since 2010, and $4.3bn since 2013 — are on top of that.
Meanwhile, the proposed clean energy target arising from the government’s Finkel review, would mandate a further 33TWh of energy from renewable sources, costing an extra $11.3bn over the 10 years to 2030.
Government MPs yesterday sounded the alarm over the subsidies and called for clarity over government plans for a new coal-fired power station.
The chairman of the Coalition backbench committee for energy, Craig Kelly, described the costs of the subsidies as an “appalling waste” resulting from an “ideological rush to renewables”.
“No one will ever be able to compute the full opportunity cost of the alternate productive assets that this capital could have been invested in,” Mr Kelly said.
“We already have some of the highest electricity prices in the world. And what industry will we still have if we go down this track?”
Victorian Nationals MP Andrew Broad, chairman of the standing committee on the environment and energy, said the RET should be scrapped to allow renewables to compete on merit.
“To spend all that money and still have expensive power prices means the settings are all wrong,” Mr Broad said.
The Productivity Commission found the automotive industry received the equivalent of about $30bn of industry assistance between 1997 and 2012. It estimated up to 40,000 people might lose their jobs following the withdrawal of Toyota, Holden and Ford as carmakers in Australia, including job losses along the supply chain.
The 39 renewable energy projects under construction or being completed this year have created 4400 jobs, according to the Clean Energy Council’s latest figures.
ACIL Allen Consulting chief executive Paul Hyslop yesterday told a parliamentary inquiry that it was more cost-effective to hold off any investment decisions in low-emissions technologies under renewable energy schemes until the “last possible minute”.
“Solar costs have probably fallen 75 to 80 per cent in the last six or seven years,” Mr Hyslop told the energy and environment committee. “If we had not done anything seven years ago and today we then did all those things, we could have … two to three times as much solar (energy generation) in roofs for the same amount of investment over that period.
“If you think that the cost of renewables and low-emissions technology is falling rapidly, absolutely put it off for as long as possible.”