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Put windfarms on Red Hill, not in NSW, say politicians

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has accused NSW conservative politicians of launching a scare campaign over the territory’s  renewable energy target of 90per cent by 2020.

Three NSW parliamentarians and the federal member for Hume travelled to the ACT on Tuesday to protest against wind farms being built in their NSW electorates to feed the ACT’s ‘‘outrageous’’ target.

Federal MP Angus Taylor joined NSW members Pru Goward, Katrina Hodgkinson and John Barilaro on Red Hill, suggesting the turbines should be built within ACT limits.

Ms Goward, the member for Goulburn, said: ‘‘If Canberra wants wind farms, they should build them here at Red Hill. Instead of looking out of their windows at the beautiful blue Brindabellas with the snow on the mountains, [Canberrans] will look out at hideous turbines.’’

The NSW members say the issue of wind turbines has divided their communities.

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The member for Burrinjuck,  Ms Hodgkinson, said the turbines were polarising.

‘‘Some people like them, some people absolutely hate them,’’ she said.

‘‘What Canberra is proposing to do by having 90per cent renewable energy by 2020 is actually thrusting many more wind turbines into our local communities. Ninety per cent by 2020 is really quite outrageous – it’s pandering totally to a green movement. It’s unrealistic, it’s impractical and wind turbines are notoriously unreliable as well.’’

But Ms Gallagher said the NSW politicians were making their argument in the wrong place.

‘‘Their gripe is with the NSW government ... because these wind farms have been approved under their planning laws, so they’ve gone through all the processes required under law to allow customers – which may be the ACT – to come in and seek business there,’’ she said.

‘‘For Pru Goward, the area for her to lobby is around the cabinet table where she sits.

‘‘We are merely here once those approvals are put in place to say yes, we are interested in purchasing that wind energy.’’

Mr Taylor said using wind turbines to achieve the renewable energy targets was ‘‘flawed policy’’ and that the ACT was causing angst for its neighbours while ensuring more expensive electricity for Canberra, for potentially no net reduction in national carbon emissions.

‘‘We have to pursue the best ways of reducing carbon emissions and ... the simple numbers tell us that what is being proposed by the ACT government is three times more expensive than alternatives for generating electricity, and 10 times more expensive than alternatives for reducing carbon emissions,’’ he said.

Under the ACT plan, revealed by The Canberra Times last month, wind energy would  power 80,000 Canberra households within six years, with the government  auctioning off wind farm supply contracts.

The government will sign 20-year deals with successful bidders, who will get a guaranteed price for the energy they supply.

The auction is due to be held midyear. The wind farms set to bid for a share of the 200MW of electricity generation are ringed around Canberra in country NSW, including Collector, Crookwell and Bungendore.

Mr Taylor said it was ‘‘completely foreseeable’’ that the ACT’s reduced emissions would not make an overall impact nationally.

‘‘If the federal government was to adjust its target to reflect the ACT’s target, then Canberrans would pay far more than their fair share ... which effectively means this program has zero impact on Australia’s carbon emissions,’’ he said.

Ms Gallagher  called his comments  a scare campaign, noting Canberra electricity prices are at present about $1000 less per household annually than in Queanbeyan.

‘‘It’s a classic conservative attack line on moving to renewable energies that nobody is going to be able to afford it, and that just doesn’t stack up here in Canberra,’’ she said.

‘‘All of the work that we’ve done ... show that by the time we get to 90per cent of our energy being sourced from renewable sources, it will be $4 per week per household in the ACT.

‘‘The debate about climate change, moving to renewable energy sources, cannot be about what’s happening in my back garden,’’ she said. ‘‘In time the actions we’re taking now I think will be vindicated.’’