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Renewables to generate a fifth of Australia's electricity by 2020

Green energy revenues in Australia and New Zealand to reach $5.04bn over the next four years.

Revenues from renewable energy markets in the Australia and New Zealand region (ANZ) will reach an estimated $5.04bn by the end of 2016, according to new analysis from the business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Renewables in ANZ markets earned revenues of $1.90bn in 2011.

Subha Krishnan, research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said:

Ever since the RET target for 2020 was amended to provide a solar multiplier for rooftop solar systems and some states introduced generous feed-in tariffs, small-scale installations such as [photovoltaic] systems and solar hot water systems have flooded the REC market.

Among all renewable energy sources, solar PV had the highest revenue share in 2011, while wind power is considered the lowest cost form of large-scale renewable energy generation in the ANZ region. It is noteworthy that Australia has some of the best wind resources in the world.

The Australian Parliament has passed landmark laws to impose a price on carbon emissions to enhance higher adoption of renewable energy. New Zealand, meanwhile, has allowed distributed electricity generators to sell electricity back to the grid.

Yet uncertainty in renewable energy targets (RET) in Australia and the absence of new policy approaches in New Zealand have hindered the market from making optimal use of these policies.

Frost & Sullivan argues that the targets for solar PV systems in Australia are not as high as those in Germany and Japan, which are as high as 20 per cent. The focus on improving the installed power capacity through coal-fired thermal power plants does not encourage project developers and equipment manufacturers to increase the installed solar PV capacity.

Environmental concerns are expected to cause a shift in focus from conventional power to renewable energy generation, thereby making a case for solar PV power.

In the wind power market, demand patterns have changed from small-capacity farms to large-capacity wind farms.

Krishnan added:

The benefits of economies of scale have prompted the installation of large capacity turbines over the last four years. This move has lowered installation and generation costs, giving a huge impetus to the renewable energy market . . .

Despite their high costs, renewable energy systems have found considerable acceptance among industrial end users, especially in urban areas. The economic benefits derived from green technologies will go a long way in keeping the market dynamic.

Photo: Getty Images
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David Cameron’s starter homes: poor policy, but good politics

David Cameron's electoral coalition of buy-to-let retirees and dual-earner couples remains intact: for now.

The only working age demographic to do better under the Coalition was dual-earner couples – without children. They were the main beneficiaries of the threshold raise – which may “take the poorest out of tax” in theory but in practice hands a sizeable tax cut to peope earning above average. They will reap the fruits of the government’s Help to Buy ISAs. And, not having children, they were insulated from cuts to child tax credits, reductions in public services, and the rising cost of childcare. (Childcare costs now mean a couple on average income, working full-time, find that the extra earnings from both remaining in work are wiped out by the costs of care)

And they were a vital part of the Conservatives’ electoral coalition. Voters who lived in new housing estates on the edges of seats like Amber Valley and throughout the Midlands overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives.

That’s the political backdrop to David Cameron’s announcement later today to change planning to unlock new housing units – what the government dubs “Starter Homes”. The government will redefine “affordable housing”  to up to £250,000 outside of London and £450,000 and under within it, while reducing the ability of councils to insist on certain types of buildings. He’ll describe it as part of the drive to make the next ten years “the turnaround decade”: years in which people will feel more in control of their lives, more affluent, and more successful.

The end result: a proliferation of one and two bedroom flats and homes, available to the highly-paid: and to that vital component of Cameron’s coalition: the dual-earner, childless couple, particularly in the Midlands, where the housing market is not yet in a state of crisis. (And it's not bad for that other pillar of the Conservative majority: well-heeled pensioners using buy-to-let as a pension plan.)

The policy may well be junk-rated but the politics has a triple A rating: along with affluent retirees, if the Conservatives can keep those dual-earner couples in the Tory column, they will remain in office for the forseeable future.

Just one problem, really: what happens if they decide they want room for kids? Cameron’s “turnaround decade” might end up in entirely the wrong sort of turnaround for Conservative prospects.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.