ACT News


ACT Liberals seek to water down ACT government motion on climate change

Climate Change Minister and Green Shane Rattenbury attempted to brandish a solar panel in the ACT parliament on Thursday, in response to federal Treasurer Scott Morrison's use of coal as a prop in the federal parliament.

Accusing the federal ministers of an "odious" display when they shared the coal around the house, "adoring it like obsessed Gollums", Mr Rattenbury said far from being the culprit, renewable energy had averted blackouts during last week's blackouts.

"Two big gas fired generators - Colongra and Tallawarra - stopped generating at the height of the heatwave and supply-demand crisis," he said.

"Renewables were there to save the day. It was renewable technologies like these humble little solar panels that smoothed out the supply spikes and averted blackouts while big, dirty fossil fuel plants were failing."

But, as in the federal parliament, props are not encouraged and he received short shrift from Speaker Joy Burch.


Mr Rattenbury was speaking during a debate in support of the ACT's 100 per cent renewable electricity target. The debate forced a response from the Liberals, which was notably less enthusiastic than Labor and the Greens.

Liberals environment spokesperson Elizabeth Lee said while Canberra's commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy had been good for the economy, and was supported by the Liberals, the ACT was at risk of pushing electricity to prices beyond the everyday consumer.

"There is genuine concern that our frenetic pace to achieve our targets will place an unfair burden on those Canberrans that can afford it the least," she said. 

The government says its contracts with wind and solar farms will add $290 to the average Canberra electricity bill of $1500 a year in 2020. Mr Rattenbury describes the impact on prices as minimal and largely offset by energy efficiency savings.

Ms Lee attempted to amend Mr Rattenbury's motion to delete the word "severe" in his reference to severe consequences of climate change on Canberra.

The Liberals also attempted to delete Mr Rattenbury's reference to the importance of moving away from burning coal and other fossil fuels, and his claim that new coal-powered electricity would mean much higher prices.

They tried to insert a new clause into his motion calling on the government to consider "reliability of electricity supply and affordability of power for all Canberrans" in its climate change agenda.

Ms Lee also referred to a case in Denmark, where she said plans to build five offshore wind farms had been abandoned because of the prohibitive $10 billion cost of buying power from them. Ms Lee said while the ACT's situation might be different it should be mindful of such experiences.

But Mr Rattenbury rejected the comparison, saying the price paid by the ACT to the wind and solar farms was locked in and would not change. The price of wind electricity in Denmark had dropped considerably in recent years, he said, accusing the Liberals of "trawling right wing blog sites" for negatives.

Mr Rattenbury said it was false to blame solar and wind energy for the blackouts.

"The problem is with spikes in demand. This is an issue that renewable technologies, such as solar and battery storage, are very effective at responding to," he said, pointing to Canberra's rollout of 5000 batteries, the biggest rollout in the world outside Germany.  The battery storage would make the grid more resilient.

On Thursday, the Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia began supplying the grid under its 20-year contract with the ACT.

The ACT is buying enough power from the French-owned wind farm to power 57,000 homes.