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, which it voted in favour of at its federal conference in Canberra, aimed to make energy more affordable and reliable.

The New England electorate has billions invested in the renewable sector and is set to become a net exporter 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 Uralla-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.

“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.”

Chair of the New England Nationals Electorate Council, 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.

“It’s great that we’ve got all these renewable energy projects, however what people don’t understand is that for each one of those, 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 confused two issues.

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

It’s unclear which way Nats leader and New England MP Barnaby Joyce – who has previously given a glowing endorsement to the region’s wind farms – voted on the motion.

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