WA, Germany and Renewable Energy Targets: Statement by Robin Chapple to the Legislative Council

June 17, 2010

HON ROBIN CHAPPLE (Mining and Pastoral) [5.21 pm]:

I rise tonight to speak about a meeting I attended, along with several other members of this chamber, on Monday, 14 June. It was a general meeting of Sustainable Energy Now to listen to a presentation by Dr Volker Oschmann, a senior German government official. I wish to acknowledge that the meeting was also attended by my colleagues Hon Alison Xamon; Hon Philip Gardiner; Hon Max Trenorden; Hon Liz Behjat; Chris Tallentire, MLA; Andrew Waddell, MLA; and Peter Abetz, MLA, plus a completely packed audience. It was a really vibrant, alarming but fulfilling meeting. It was incredible to listen to somebody who has been leading the charge as a lawyer with the German government in developing renewable energy strategies and, indeed, a feed-in tariff in Germany.

Volker, with whom I have worked over some time, is a senior government official from the German federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and was SEN’s guest speaker for the evening. The presentation given by Dr Oschmann was “Going Renewable: Germany’s Energy Future”. Germany has ambitious targets for renewable energies. The 2006 government’s sustainable strategy aimed at supplying half of the overall energy supply with renewable energies by the middle of this century. The German minister for the environment, with the support of a coalition of conservative parties, comprising the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union and the free-market Free Democratic Party, recently raised the target and is now aiming at supplying 100 per cent of energy from renewable sources by the middle of this century. Volker gave us detailed information of Germany’s renewable energy policy and some external views on Australia’s energy policy. Volker is acknowledged as being the legal father of the successful German feed-in laws—Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz—which in fact provide for a feed-in tariff. This has been emulated by many other countries. As a lawyer within the ministry, he drafted the law in 2000, the amendments in 2004 and the subsequent amendments in 2009. He is one of the most knowledgeable German experts on all legal issues arising from the promotion of renewable energies. Volker is also co-editor of the journal of new energy law and author of several publications on European and German renewable energy law and practices. Before working with the
Ministry for the Environment, Volker was legal adviser to Hans-Josef Fell and Hon Dr Hermann Scheer in the German Parliament. Currently, he is undertaking research on legal issues arising from climate change at the Centre for Mining, Energy and Natural Resources Law at the University of Western Australia.

I know that other members have quite often done this in other places, but Volker was rather interesting because he started his presentation by showing this scoresheet that emanated from the Federation Internationale De Football Association World Cup. It had zero for us and four for Germany. He went on to paraphrase all his presentations with the same premise. When we came to the values of our solar energy, he said that Australia had two and Germany had one. It was really interesting that when we went through all the parameters available to Western Australia and, indeed, to Australia in terms of energy futures, Australia potentially outpaced Germany on every count.

I will go through and establish where the German renewable energy targets were. I say “were” because these are the figures that were established by the previous socialist government and they have been outstripped by a doubling by the current conservative government. The renewable energy in final consumption was to be 50 per cent by 2050. That is now 100 per cent. The targets for renewable transport were to be 33 per cent by 2050. It is interesting to note that when he gave that presentation, there was certainly some take up of electric cars, but the majority of that reduction was actually going to be made by energy efficiencies. In fact, it is aiming for 5.5 million electric cars on the road by 2050. Many other aspects of his presentation were littered with humorous anecdotes. It is really interesting to note that in just about every sector that dealt with renewable transport, renewable energy and, indeed, energy consumption, the whole point was mitigation, not necessarily changing the way that people do things.

The legal framework that has been adopted in most of these aspects is twofold. It is a carrot and stick approach. The carrot is to provide research and development and significant subsidies in the area of transport for electric cars. The stick is a quota obligation on people producing vehicles and a requirement that all fuels must contain 10 per cent renewable energies. In the heating and cooling sector, the target for renewable heating and cooling is
a 50 per cent reduction by 2050. Again, there is a carrot and stick approach. The carrot is subsidies for existing buildings, innovative technology and building design. The stick is the obligation that new buildings must use renewable energies such as solar panels, thermal heating and many other aspects. Volker went on to explain that this is extremely difficult in a country that is bereft in many cases of large amounts of sun, of which Australia is
a beneficiary. The electric sector’s share of renewables in electricity was to be 80 per cent by 2050. Again, I refer to the fact that this was under the previous government, not the current one. The current government’s objectives are much higher.

It is interesting to note that in one of the slides that were presented, we saw an exponential growth in photovoltaics. To give members some idea of the installed capacity, in 2002 it was about 162 megawatts of power; in 2006 it had gone up to 2 220; and already by 2009 it was over 6 200. If that occurred in Western Australia, it would most likely completely revitalise our whole energy industry. It is also important to note that all these targets are about better energy utilisation. Again, with renewable energy law, priority planning permits were the stick, with priority access to the grid by legislation and a gross feed-in tariff. I note that my colleague Hon Alison Xamon asked Dr Volker Oschmann what he thought of a net feed-in tariff —

Hon Alison Xamon: As opposed to a gross feed-in tariff.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: As opposed to a gross feed-in tariff. There was a degree of chortling from the chair, and he said that it would never work because it would not encourage people into the market.

Hon Peter Collier: But it’s a start.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: It is a start but, unfortunately, it started and stopped at the same moment the Minister for Energy introduced it.

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