Clean energy sector shake-out separates gas and wind from solar and geothermal

08 Aug 2007Archived News Energetics in the News

PUBLISHED: The Australian - By Matthew Warren - Tony Cooper, Managing Director, Energetics Pty Ltd is asked to comment on the launch of a new clean energy organisation.


Preparations are under way for a national price regime on greenhouse emissions.

AUSTRALIA'S $5 billion clean energy industry has completed a major strategic shake-out that will largely separate gas and wind power interests from proponents of solar and geothermal energy.

The shake-out is seen as readying the clean energy sector for expected substantial growth when a national price on greenhouse emissions kicks in from as early as 2010.

A new clean energy organisation is to be launched on Friday, following six months of protracted negotiations between the industry's three representative bodies.

In the new deal, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) will merge with the Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind), while the Renewable Energy Generators Forum (REGA) will continue to operate until the federal election, expected in November.

A consolidation has been looming for the fledgling industry, unable to justify three rival organisations competing for membership and representation, with most major clean energy companies in Australia represented on two or more of the former industry groups.

The shake-out is expected to evolve into two broad alliances of interests with the new BCSE and Auswind merger campaigning for policies such as mandatory renewable energy targets to drive immediate investment and installation of low-emissions technologies such as gas and wind.

A second breakaway group likely to emerge from the REGA group is expected to seek greater government investment in accelerating development of emerging technologies such as geothermal energy and large-scale solar.

Chief executive of gas giant AGL, Paul Anthony, will chair the new lead organisation, which will be run by former Auswind chief executive Dominique La Fontaine.

BCSE executive director Ric Brazzale resigned last week after founding the organisation's predecessor 10 years ago with a membership that included Origin Energy, Pacific Hydro, BP Solar and Energetics.

BCSE was formed in late 2002 with a merger of the Australian EcoGeneration Association (AEA) and the Sustainable Energy Industry Association (SEIA).

REGA chief executive Susan Jeanes has also resigned but will stay on to manage the organisation until the end of the year and is expected to be involved with the development of a geothermal industry group currently under investigation by the industry.

REGA's membership also includes AGL, Pacific Hydro and BP Solar as well as geothermal developer Petratherm and Solar Systems, which received a $75million grant last year to develop its concentrated solar technology near Mildura.

Ms La Fontaine yesterday said it was important that the industry spoke with one voice to deliver the energy solutions needed by the economy in a carbon constrained future. ``There is huge growth in electricity generation so we need all the technologies that we have to be able to meet the economic growth. It's not about one technology over another,'' she said.

Ms La Fontaine said the split between current and emerging clean energy technologies reflected a more natural policy division for the industry rather than one based on the old sections of technology or renewable status: ``I think it's a much better position to be in that we can resolve policy and outcomes around that.''

Energetics managing director Tony Cooper said the new organisation would be more efficient and effective for the industry: ``Anything that can provide a focus and a strong voice is welcomed.''

Australia's infant hot rocks companies already have an informal Australian Geothermal Energy Group, which is investigating whether to expand into a full-blown industry group that may emerge if REGA wraps up at the end of the year.

Petratherm managing director Terry Kallis said the industry, hoping to generate electricity from hot rocks kilometres deep in the earth, wanted to engage all sides of politics: ``We will wait and see after (the election) where we head with that.''

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