From the Archbishop

Finkel report welcome

A chance to overcome partisan politics on energy policy, says Archbishop Phillip Freier

June 20 2017I welcome the report by Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, into Australia’s energy market. Few issues in Australian domestic politics and infrastructure have been more vexed than how to safeguard a secure and sustainable supply of energy with low emissions at a cost Australian households and businesses can manage.

In particular, I am pleased that the report seems to provide an opportunity to reach a bipartisan agreement on Australia’s energy policy. I hope that both the Government and Opposition will embrace the idea of a clean energy target, requiring a set amount of power from low-emission sources such as renewables or gas.

The national electricity market is the longest geographically connected power system in the world, more than 40,000 kilometres of transmission lines, and supplies the eastern and southern states and territories – Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. It generates around 200 terawatt​ hours of electricity a year, or about 80 per cent of Australia’s electricity consumption.

It is time for Australia to get its policy right, with particular priority given to meeting our targets under the Paris climate accord and establishing the foundation for deeper carbon emission cuts into the future.

The Finkel Report recommends that a clean energy target replace the existing renewable energy target in 2020. Experts have debated whether such a policy will still meet Australia’s commitments, but it sets a clear minimum standard.

One aspect that has not received the attention it should is encouraging people who rent their homes to benefit from rooftop solar power generation and storage, because swiftly rising energy costs have disproportionally affected Australia’s poorest families. Landlords should be given incentives to install solar capture and storage systems on rental properties.

Stewardship of God’s earth and resources is a fundamental responsibility of us all. I am grateful that we may be finally on the verge of moving past intransigent political positions on the vital questions of climate change and power supply.