Monday, February 26, 2024

True cost of renewables remain hidden

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As Australian politicians take aim at globally dictated emissions targets, are everyday Australians left to carry the burden of the ‘green dream’?

To achieve a transition away from coal and into wind and solar, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen stated Labor needs to install 22,000 solar panels every day, or 60 million panels for the 80 per cent renewables 2030 target, and 40 wind turbines every month to reach its target. 

There were an estimated 100 million individual solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in Australia at the end of 2022, and it is estimated 2 billion solar panels will be required if we are to meet the 2050 emissions targets. The International Renewable Energy Agency reports estimate that by 2050, Australia will accumulate 950,000 tonnes of waste from end-of-life PV panels, and 78,000,000 tonnes globally.  

On a recent holiday drive through NSW, the scale of land required to host these new technologies became apparent. Whole hill sides, formerly open paddocks, turned to masses of concrete, plastic and precious metals.

Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said Labor is refusing to be transparent about the impact of renewable projects on productive agriculture land and regional communities by failing to release its promised Community Engagement Review into the issue.

The Community Engagement Review, investigating renewable projects and infrastructure, was announced by Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen on July 4, 2023, and is being led by Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer. It was presented to the Minister at the end of 2023.

“Disclosure of the review is crucial because it’s about the future of our farming communities and how this will impact the price of food,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The review looks at the impact on agricultural land and farmers, the treatment and rights of landowners and regional communities for renewable energy projects, including wind turbines, solar panels, hydrogen and transmission lines.”

Mr Littleproud is now seeking access to the report under the Freedom of Information Act.

While large scale local solar and wind projects are only just getting started, the first challenge for many rural communities is the huge transmission lines needed to supply the city centres. 

Charleton Glenn, a fourth-generation farmer and agricultural consultant from Moulamein, shared her concerns for farming enterprises and for future generations who wish to grow the nation’s food.

“I just don’t think that they had really thought about the effects of what happens to the next generation that’s coming home,” said Charleton. 

“It affects the long-term future for anyone who’s my age and I just thought it was really sucky that anyone’s life it’s going to impact into the future, rather than just now.

“I would prefer if it didn’t come through the region. 

“It’s not something that everyone in the community is all that excited about. 

“I guess, as someone who, in the future, would love to come home and go farming at some point in time, or at least support my sister while she goes farming, it would be nice not to have them, because it impacts us being irrigated agriculture.

“Then, there’s other things like safety risks in terms of firefighting.

“I don’t disagree the initial power lines that came through gave us three phase power and reliability, I’m not really sure what is the net benefits of these power lines other than it’s giving back to the people who live in the city.”

Victorian farmer Ben Duxson, who has 8,500 merino sheep as well as canola, barley and wheat on his 5,500-acre farm in Kanya, southern Wimmera, said there was no need for planned transmission lines, which would go straight through his own farm.

“No one in our area wants anything to do with windfarms, solar or transmission lines, because we are farmers of food and fibre, not energy,” Mr Duxson said.

“Labor has to go back and re-plan. They are not thinking about the environment or the social or financial impact and my message to Labor is ‘start again’. Food and fibre security, sustainability and affordability are all in jeopardy if this plan goes ahead.

“Transmission lines through this area would lead to multi-generational farmers getting up and leaving due to constraints placed on our businesses and the way we farm. We will fight against the reckless plan Labor has for Australia’s energy sector. Farmers will have to do the heavy lifting for a failed short-term plan that will increase the cost-of-living for all Australians.”

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 1 February 2024

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 1 February 2024.

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