In the News

Embracing Renewables in the Hunter

November 29, 2018

Stockland Green Hills is a big development on many levels but from the rooftop it’s particularly impressive.

Last week I was delighted to welcome Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Mark Butler, to tour the new, state-of-the-art solar panel installation.

The $2.8 million solar system is made up of 5,480 solar panels across a roof area of approximately 27,000 square metres, making it the largest rooftop solar PV system in Australia.

The 1.863 MW system has already significantly reduced the centre’s base building energy and greenhouse gas emissions, cutting peak electricity demand by 29 percent and grid-supplied electricity by 46.3 percent. On average, the rooftop solar system is expected to generate approximately 2,770,000 kWh of renewable energy per year, enough to power 295 homes.

The solar installation is a perfect example of the steps the Hunter Region is taking toward an environmentally conscious future.

In the absence of national policy, Stockland has taken its own steps toward a renewable future.

Energy is an ongoing debate and debacle in Australia.

More and more I am asked when we, in Canberra, are going to get our act together on energy. 

Households, business and industry all see the bills increasing and it’s frustrating not to mention tough to make ends meet, keep costs down and people in work.

These are the challenges the Morrison Government is struggling with and consequently, we have no policy.

In July this year, I spent three days in Tokyo to gain insight into Japanese climate policy.

Japan imports most of its energy inputs. Consequently, they have a two-pronged approach to energy.

The first is a population that strives for energy efficiency. For example, the Japanese have adapted ‘cool bis’ attire, meaning they do not wear suits in summer and air conditioning is set at approximately 28 degrees Celsius.

The other is a solid set of policies that ensure a secure supply of electricity to power the world’s fifth largest economy.

Following Fukushima, nuclear power generation fell to one percent. The Japanese Government now plans to restore it to 22 percent by 2030 however safety is now an underlying principle.

While the Japanese embrace renewable technology, coal is positioned as an important energy source and there has been a lot of research and development into reducing emissions.

With these factors in mind, in July 2015, the Japanese government set out Japan’s energy mix toward 2030. The basic principles are energy security, economic efficiency, environment and safety.

By 2030, the energy generation mix is planned to look approximately like this:

  • Renewables 22%
  • Nuclear 22 %
  • LNG – 27%
  • Coal – 26%
  • Oil – 3%

The contrast between Japan’s energy policy and Australia’s is astounding. Unlike the policy vacuum we have seen in Canberra for the past five years, Japan has a clear direction and requisite organisations to oversee implementation.

Labor will tackle the policy chaos in Canberra. We are developing our policies in consultation with industry, following the best advice of regulators and experts. To this end I was pleased to host a round table with Mark Butler after our tour of Green Hills. Here in the Hunter we are contributing to the development of a policy that can take us well and responsibly into the future.

In the meantime, it’s great that companies like Stockland have chosen places like Green Hills to implement this forward-thinking technology. I congratulate them on this achievement.