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Time to clean up our energy

By Dominique La Fontaine - posted Tuesday, 13 November 2007

In just one day the future for Australian jobs and the economy looks a whole lot brighter. With the ALP announcement of a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, the bar has been raised on the Coalition's plan of 15 per cent by 2020. Politicians are finally taking the issue seriously. 

The ALP's Renewable Energy Target means that one-fifth of our electricity will come from clean, zero-emission, renewable sources by 2020. Australia could become a clean energy superpower, with as many as 100 clean energy power stations built around the country using Australia's diverse and abundant renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal.

If we can start building up the industry from the beginning of next year, in 12 years we will double the amount of renewable energy we make today - more than 60,000 gigawatt hours in total, enough to run 7.5 million homes. The scale of this growth will foster Australian innovation and build up priceless knowledge.


The ALP target is both affordable and achievable and would create up to 50,000 jobs and $20 billion in new private investment. At last Australia can get back in the clean energy game and bring our energy mix into line with the rest of the world. Europe, Canada, many US states and even China have all announced 20 per cent clean energy targets as a minimum.

Australians have always been known for our new ideas and technological breakthroughs. Many companies, including the Clean Energy Council's 410 members, have been building up their organisations while waiting for government policies to catch up. Unfortunately, some have had to look overseas for growth.

Now the combination of a Renewable Energy Target and other climate change policies like emissions trading will unleash Australian creativity to meet the challenge back home. Half of Australia's dangerous greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production. Setting aside a piece of the energy pie just for clean power is the smart way for us to help the economy modernise and get ready for a low carbon world.

Together with energy efficiency and emissions trading, we can secure our jobs, economy, environment and our future. A national target will also simplify and streamline the various state schemes into a single, robust renewable energy goal for Australia - one we can visibly measure and achieve.

Climate change is well and truly on the world agenda. Last year Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Academy Award and now Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio has released his own climate change movie. In a couple of weeks the world's top climate scientists, as part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will publish their fourth report assessing the state of the world's climate. At the last federal election, climate change barely rated a mention. This time it's rightly in the top three concerns for voters.

Things are changing fast and there's a lot we're all trying to understand quickly. But we can meet the challenge. As individuals, communities, countries and governments, we must play our part in cleaning up our energy consumption.


Just two years ago we watched TV instead of YouTube and we phoned instead of using Facebook. We now have iPods and the Internet, computers and online communities. Everything we love runs on electricity - but fossil fuel power is a 100-year-old technology.

Isn't it time our power stations caught up with our PowerBooks? Let's come clean with our energy and make sure an ever-growing proportion of electricity generation is clean, renewable and as modern as we are.

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First published in the Herald Sun on 6 November, 2007.

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About the Author

Dominique La Fontaine is the CEO of the Clean Energy Council, Australia's clean energy peak industry body. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Assessment and Land Use Policy).

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