Wed, 29 Nov 2023 - 19:51
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STATEMENT: RENEWABLE ENERGY

I want to speak tonight about renewable energy and how that is playing out in my own electorate of Bradfield and around the country. As we know, Australia has the highest rooftop penetration of solar energy in the world, and there's certainly considerable interest in my own electorate. A few years ago I organised a community meeting to inform citizens about the options available to them. We were joined then by Dr David Mills, AM, who's a solar industry pioneer in Australia. Following that session, we made some changes at our own home. We installed a five-kilowatt solar system on the roof. The next step, a year or two later, was a heat-pump dryer. Then the next step, another year or so after that, was a heat-pump hot water system. This is up to four times as efficient as a traditional electric-element hot water heater.

We've been pleased with the results, and plenty of other people in the electorate of Bradfield are doing a similar thing. According to recent data, around 19.9 per cent of dwellings in Ku-ring-gai Council, falling wholly within the electorate of Bradfield, and 25.9 per cent of dwelling in Hornsby Shire Council, part of which falls within Bradfield may have solar PV. These are encouraging figures, but it's interesting to note that there are other parts of Australia which are doing even better. Across New South Wales, 31 per cent of dwellings have solar PV. In Queensland, it's 45.4 per cent. In South Australia it's 44.5 per cent and 39.4 per cent. So I say to my constituents: you're doing well, but there's room to do more.

We know that the renewable energy industry accounted for about 32.5 per cent of total electricity generation in Australia in 2021, an increase of almost five percentage points compared to 2020. As shadow minister for science, I've been interested to meet with a range of stakeholders to learn more about the science and technology underpinning the transformation of our energy system. Earlier this year I met with Rainer Korte, chief operating officer of ElectraNet, which operates the transmission network in South Australia, to learn about how that network is responding to the growth in large-scale wind generation capacity—there is about 1,477 megawatts of such capacity in South Australia—and the very strong penetration of rooftop solar in South Australia and the impact that that is having on the overall grid management challenges.

This month I had the chance to meet with SunDrive Solar co-founder and chief executive Vincent Allen and the team on a visit to their impressive facility in Kurnell. Interestingly, Dr David Mills, whom I mentioned earlier, is on the board of SunDrive. It's a company that makes solar panels using copper, not the traditional silver, using proprietary technology based on scientific research done at UNSW Sydney. It's a great story of Aussie innovation. Last week I had the chance to meet with the chief executive of the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre, Shannon O'Rourke, at Curtin University in Perth to learn more about Australia's battery industry and its place in the whole global battery industry supply chain.

There are a lot of very impressive people doing impressive work as our energy system transitions. I have to say, though, that I'm far from confident that the Albanese Labor government and Minister Bowen are managing this in a competent and businesslike way. On the contrary, I'm worried that we will see our grid become less reliable and affordable thanks to their mismanagement.

But, at the same time, what I think does stand out is the fact that so many Australians, in their homes, are making decisions—based in significant measure, I might say, on the economic incentives—to use solar power or a heat pump hot water system or other alternative technologies, and I commend those Australians who have made those decisions. Certainly there's some very impressive research being done and some very impressive technology being commercialised. Of course, Australia as a nation has played a very important role in the development of solar technology and its commercialisation and the steady reduction in cost that's been achieved, not least because of breakthrough technology. Certainly UNSW Sydney has been one university where there's been very impressive research done which has underpinned a number of generations of commercialisation of solar technology. But there are plenty of other research institutions around Australia doing very important work on this. As shadow minister for science, I'm impressed by the amount of innovation and clever work and thinking.

So I want to commend Australians who are involved in this transition across our energy system. They're doing a good job. I wish I could say I had the same confidence about the government.