Weathering Abbott

• An artist’s impression of the Fremantle wind farm project.

• An artist’s impression of the Fremantle wind farm project.

Two Fremantle green energy projects are gritting their teeth, determined to prevail over the blustery headwind that is the Abbott government and its chilly attitude towards climate change.

Fremantle wind farm project manager Jamie Ally admits he’s concerned about the rhetoric coming from the Coalition, but is confident the project will be viable regardless.

He told the Herald he’d been hoping to access low-interest loans from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund the community wind farm proposed for Rous Head: “If they are scaling that back that would be disappointing.”

Soon after his swearing in, new environment minister Greg Hunt confirmed the corporation—which he’d described during the campaign as a “green hedge fund”—would be scrapped.

Mr Abbott’s pledge to axe Labor’s emission trading scheme will also affect the wind farm’s competitiveness by making coal and gas-powered electricity cheaper and widening the affordability gap for renewables.

However, Mr Ally says by bundling renewable energy certificates into the deal, he’s confident the wind farm will find customers.

“The project relies on three things: RECs, capacity and generation, and it’s about balancing them. So, at the end of the day if we can’t get the offset price, we would try to sell the power that we’d need to be profitable,” he said.

RECs currently sell for around $35 per megawatt hour, but the price can vary up to $5 in a short period.

Mr Ally says there’s going to be a huge shortage of RECs as the country struggles to find projects to offset the big greenhouse gas producers, which could signal a price rise.

He says the biggest threat to the project would be if the Abbott government scaled back Australia’s renewable energy targets, which mandate that electricity providers must purchase a certain amount of green energy to offset their emissions.

“Tony Abbott has said they will review the renewable energy targets in 2014—they were due to be reviewed in 2016 so we are very concerned about that,” Mr Ally admits.

Mr Hunt has confirmed the Coalition will review the targets.

Also standing in the way of the Fremantle wind farm is opposition from Fremantle Ports. Mr Ally says there’s been “no softening at all” in its stance, despite the project getting a reasonably warm response from premier Colin Barnett when he met him a year ago.

“Nothing much has happened since then, and we have tried to contact him to ask him to progress the issue, but haven’t got any response.

“We met with staff from Troy Buswell’s office, as he’s responsible for the port, and there was not much interest there. But then, he is being advised by the ports.”

Undaunted, the wind farm team, which includes many volunteers, has turned to online crowd funding to produce videos it hopes can prove to the port the project has local backing. Mr Ally says the project is trying to raise $10,000 to produce either one high-quality video or a series of low-quality videos to counter myths about wind farms.

Meanwhile wave power generator Carnegie, based on Fremantle Ports’ land, says while it’s fielded questions about its future, it’s confident its project is safe.

Executive assistant Krystle Thein told the Herald funding was safe as it’s provided through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has some independence from budget deliberations.

However, Mr Hunt earlier this year flagged at a solar conference there might be changes to how Arena operates, leading to speculation the government might be looking to rein the agency in.

by STEVE GRANT

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