Figures released by the Australian Wind Energy Association (AusWEA) signal a fast-growing industry poised for further expansion. However, wind industry insiders say most of the more than AUD$5 billion (US$3.8 billion) worth of projects already in planning will be jeopardised unless the Howard Government raises the clean energy target.Sydney, Australia – February 23, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] “The past year has seen remarkable growth in the Australian wind industry of 88%,” said Rick Maddox, AusWEA Vice President. “By the end of 2003 the total amount of installed wind capacity in Australia almost doubled to just over 198 MW. And the figure for wind farms approved for construction soared from 400 MW to over 1,600 MW. However, many of the wind farms already approved will ‘die on the vine’ unless the Howard Government raises the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target,” (MRET) Maddox warned. In January, Federal Minister for Industry Ian McFarlane tabled in parliament the results of the MRET Review Panel, which recommended no change in the 9,500 gigawatt hour (GWh) renewable energy target by 2010. This has drawn widespread criticism from the renewable energy sector and environmental groups who have noted that this is less than half of the 2% target promised by Prime Minister Howard in 2000. The MRET Panel’s recommendations are in stark contrast to those of many state and territory governments, which support increasing the MRET target, according to AusWEA. Ironically, the MRET Review Panel’s justification for the less-than-1% target was concern that the renewable energy industry would not be able to install enough capacity to meet a higher target by 2010. “Our figures show there are ample projects ready to go, with an additional 5,000 MW of wind projects in various stages of feasibility analysis,” said AusWEA CEO Libby Anthony. “The current low MRET target will actually stifle existing industry development. Numerous international firms have indicated a preference to invest in Australia due to its suitability as a hub for the regional Asia Pacific market, yet many investors and developers are telling us they have hit a glass ceiling with the current MRET. With nearly 200 MW of wind capacity already installed in Australia, AusWEA estimates that only a further 800 MW of wind will be required to meet the current MRET target for 2010. In the absence of a higher target, many prospective projects will simply not get up and the significant wind resources already identified will go untapped, the organization said. “This will lead to a marked slowdown of an incredibly promising industry — an industry that could otherwise have supported substantial local manufacturing facilities, jobs and rural and regional development, and played an important role in reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Anthony. Of the 30 recommendations made by the MRET Review Panel, AusWEA agrees with or has no position on 20 of the recommendations. However, on the crucial matter of the target, AusWEA urges the Howard Government to expand the MRET target to 10% by 2010. The wind industry sees the need for a high early target to enable the development of manufacturing of wind turbines which will support the wind industry becoming cost competitive by 2020. A 10% target would see 5,000 MW of wind power installed — enough “green” electricity to supply nearly a quarter of Australia’s households. It would also result in at least $7 billion in infrastructure investment, much of it in rural and regional Australia. “The failure to recommend an increased 2010 target is surprising given that the Panel generally found the MRET to be a very successful piece of legislation,” said Maddox. Despite the MRET being threatened with extinction by the 2002 Parer Report, the MRET Review Panel has in contrast found that: – The MRET is achieving its objectives and should be retained and increased at 2020 and beyond – Renewable energy investments and exports are increasing; – Renewable energy projects are creating rural and regional development; – There is widespread public support for MRET; – And there are potentially significant long term environmental gains through MRET.