Nationals go cold on renewable energy, vote to scrap subsidies

INVESTOR SCARE: Despite its renewable capabilities, the New England could see fewer renewable energy projects because of the Nationals decision.

INVESTOR SCARE: Despite its renewable capabilities, the New England could see fewer renewable energy projects because of the Nationals decision.

THE Nationals’ call to remove all subsidies for renewable energy providers will scare investors away from New England’s booming renewable industry, experts have warned.

However, the party says the motion aimed to make electricity more affordable.

The New England electorate has billions invested in the renewable sector and is set to become a net export of renewable energy, with two large wind farms at Inverell and Glen Innes under construction and several proposed solar farms.

Much has been made of the region’s renewable capabilities with an abundance of land, wind and sunlight, but New England-based renewable energy expert Adam Blakester said talk of changing the rules would “undermine investor confidence very quickly”.

“It’s very surprising really, and quite counter productive from the Nationals point of view,” Mr Blakester said.

It’s very surprising really, and quite counter productive. - Adam Blakester

“The reality is renewable projects are predominantly build out in regional areas, so they’re the ones that reap benefits of the investment and employment.”

New England Nationals Electorate Council chair Russell Webb, added an amendment to the motion, which called for all power bills to show how much individuals were contributing to the renewable energy scheme.

“People need transparency and they need to know how much they’re paying,” Mr Webb said.

“People don’t understand that for each [renewable project], the government contributes about $730,000 to $750,000 in credits to them on an annual basis.

“Part of the reason energy bills are going up is because of the subsidies that are being paid for renewable energy credits.

“No one is saying we shouldn’t have renewable energy. But whilst we are building our capacity to build renewable projects, we don’t want to make the delivery of that energy so expensive that people can’t afford to use it.”

But Mr Blakester said the Nats had it wrong.

“All the studies done by independent research bodies and the government’s own agencies all confirm the same thing – renewable energy is a minor contributor to the increased cost of energy,” he said.

“They found biggest factor was the network, followed by the rising cost of gas and coal, gas in particular.”

It’s unclear which way New England MP Barnaby Joyce voted on the motion.

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