Australia to be a major force in wind energy

By Tim Rourke*
Thursday, 24 June, 2010

According to GE Energy’s Australian CEO Tim Rourke, Australia is currently positioned to be one of the world’s dominant forces in renewable energy … as long as the government continues to support stable policy making in this area.

Australia is definitely emerging as one of the key players in renewable energy policy making. If we can continue to lead the way in this space we will see huge benefits in terms of local employment directly and indirectly related to cleaner energy technologies. The ability to export this intellect will also be extremely valuable to our country.

While the formation of appropriate policy is critical, it’s also important that this policy gets passed. A few of the world-class policies Australia has developed to date include: the Clean Energy Initiative; Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program; Solar Flagships Program; Renewable Energy Target (RET); and the Smart Grid, Smart City initiative.

Policies such as these are critical for large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to feel secure enough to invest in the research and development required to make renewable energy viable in the longer term. It’s critical that we approve and have stable policy moving forward.

This will result in clear price signals in our market and provide certainty for companies and financiers to invest in new-generation facilities using renewable resources. Clearly articulated and sustained policy enables commitment to large capital investments and the delivery of solutions for renewable energy.

For example, GE Energy believes that in Australia, wind will be the most commercially viable form of renewable energy over the next 5-10 years. Since entering this business in 2002, GE has invested more than $1 billion in developing wind turbine technology globally.

In terms of wind, we have excellent resources right here in Australia. GE has also invested heavily here in the past two years and we’re convinced of the potential of a strong and sustainable wind market in Australia upon final parliamentary approval of the revised RET policy.

Through the proposed revisions to the RET policy, the government is sending the right signals to market, but no one will commit to investing in the delivery of renewable energy solutions until that policy is passed through parliament and set in stone. We’re eagerly looking to it being approved in the next sitting of parliament so that the industry can prepare for the necessary RET reforms that will take effect on 1 January 2011.

The implementation of this revised policy will help to drive both small- and large-scale development of renewable energy. We’ve already seen other policies help to drive the industry - initiatives such as the Smart Grid, Smart City program are critical elements that will give transmission and distribution companies the benefits of smarter grid technologies.

While this is not a renewable energy as such, it supports the concept of improving the efficiency and reliability of transmissions distribution systems we currently have. We need to maximise our existing infrastructure and then look forward into the production and delivery of renewable energies.

The RET policy will give multiple generation and vertically integrated companies the opportunity to achieve our target of 20% renewable energy by 2020. In fact, we believe the opportunities available in Australia mean this target could be met by wind alone.

There is currently a global leadership race for renewable energy and the development and implementation of smarter technology. Being able to participate in this innovation will facilitate the growth of new industries within countries that take a leading role and Australia is potentially one of those places.

There is no one single solution for creating a low-carbon world moving forward - but rather a portfolio of technologies is critical as well as how government will help us deliver this solution.

We’re excited about the short- to medium-term opportunities in wind, smart grid and clean coal - and further down the track, solar. We have invested a lot of resources here and Australia is certainly a key market for the energy business globally.

*Tim Rourke joined GE Energy in 2008 as CEO Australia & New Zealand and is responsible for the organisation’s operations, business development and growth strategies. Before joining GE he worked with one of Australia’s leading power producers as General Manager of Development and has more than 13 years of finance and business development experience in energy-related industries.

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