Today, Canberra residents and people from beyond the ACT’s borders will gather on the Parliament House lawns to celebrate Global Wind Energy Day.
There’s plenty to celebrate.
With bipartisan support and investment certainty, the wind energy sector has boomed since 2001 when the Howard government established the national Renewable Energy Target.
The tremendous growth of wind energy resulted in the previous Labor government increasing the target to 41 terawatt hours of renewable energy generation in Australia by 2020 - enough to provide at least 20 per cent of the country’s electricity demand.
While we can celebrate the past achievements of the emerging wind energy sector, its future is now under threat.
Ignoring strong public support for wind farms and the Renewable Energy Target, the Abbott government announced a review of the scheme in February.
Wind farm projects have been in a standstill ever since. Investment is up in the air and construction on hold until the fate of the Renewable Energy target is known.
This renewable energy sector’s response is not surprising when you consider what it’s up against.
The Abbott government selected former Caltex chairman and climate change skeptic Dick Warburton to lead the review. Panel members who have close links to the fossil fuel industry join Mr Warburton. One reviewer has even been accused of having a conflict of interest for owning a firm that recommends scrapping the Renewable Energy Target.
These revelations along with inadequate community engagement have shaken public confidence in the Warburton Review.
While the appointment of the Warburton review panel looks like an attempt load the dice against renewable energy, it offers the Abbott government a chance to make amends.
Australians are crying out for political leaders to commit to the 41-terawatt-hour Renewable Energy Target and secure the economic benefits for regional Australia.
The Abbott government can maintain the longstanding bipartisan support for the Renewable Energy Target. All it has to do is accept the work of the Warburton review, thank the panel for its contribution and consider its findings. It doesn’t have to act on them.
As a prospective wind farmer I know what’s at stake if politicians fail to make the right choice.
Australia’s wind energy boom has been especially lucrative for regional Australia. It has created manufacturing jobs in towns such as Whyalla in South Australia and Portland in Victoria where the impressive turbine towers are fabricated.
It is also creating a drought-proof income stream that is strengthening regional economies.
Research by Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) shows a typical 50-megawatt wind farm creates 48 direct construction jobs and five ongoing jobs for the life of the project. Wind farms of this size generate $250,000 for wind farm hosts each year, and contribute up to $80,000 annually to community projects.
It is these benefits my family and community can expect from the turbines proposed for my farm in Crookwell.
The tens of thousands of dollars worth of income these graceful giants will generate each year will be spent in the local economy over and above any day-to-day farming expenses.
It means wages for employees and jobs for construction, weed control and fencing contractors. This investment benefits small businesses while boosting farm productivity. It means community grants for sporting clubs and other associations, strengthening the ties that bind regional towns together. And I am only one of three farmers involved in the Crookwell wind farm project.
These opportunities are within reach of so many regional communities around Australia. All that is needed is a commitment to leave the Renewable Energy Target as it stands.
Global Wind Energy Day picnic will be held between 11am-12:30pm Federation Mall, Parliament House Lawns. The event is organised by Friends of the Earth, Australian Wind Alliance, and the Coalition for Community Energy.