07 October 2015








I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

Australia is an energy super power.

We export our gas, coal and uranium.

We lead the world in carbon capture and storage.

Australian resources have helped deliver a decade of prosperity for our economy, while powering Asia and lifting people out of poverty.

And there are exciting new opportunities for us in renewable energy technology.

We can be a clean-energy powerhouse.

We receive more sunlight than any other continent.

And we are also one of the windiest places on earth.

We have enough renewable energy resources to power our country five hundred times over.

And we are also a nation of great universities, innovative businesses and investors, leading research institutes and agencies such as ARENA and the CEFC, and creative people, we have the skills and smarts to put our natural advantages to use.

We can be one of the best markets in the world for jobs and industries powered by renewable and clean energy technology.

And yet, in spite of Australia’s favourable starting position.

Despite our world’s-best barrier-draw Australia has been lagging – not leading – the renewable energy race.

Last year, clean energy investment grew:

  • In the United States, by 8 per cent

  • In Japan, by 12 per cent

  • In China, by 35 per cent

Yet investment dropped by 35 per cent in Australia.

In fact, investment in large-scale renewable energy actually fell 88 per cent.

From over $2 billion to around $240 million.

In the last two years more than 2 million renewable energy jobs were added to the global economy.

But 2,300 jobs were lost in Australia.

This has to change.

And perhaps – at last – the government will stop fighting Labor on this.

Like you, I welcome the fact that the Liberal leadership no longer see wind turbines as a horrifying blight on the landscape a creeping menace lurking on the horizon.

The muzzling of the far-right’s ideological attack dogs in the clean energy debate is long overdue.

And it’s a gesture I’m prepared to accept in good faith.

I’m hopeful our Parliament, our politics, can move past the basic, binary argument of whether renewable energy is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

And instead of having to constantly re-litigate the need for modernising our electricity system, we can start from the scientific evidence base.

We can begin by recognising clean technology and renewable energy is essential to our economic and environmental future.

A creator of the jobs of the future, and a magnet for investment.

A driver of innovation and new technology.

A vital lever for driving our international and regional competitiveness.

And crucial to a low-pollution economy.

And if both sides of Australian politics are now willing to say they support renewable energy, then the test is no longer a matter of competing rhetoric.

Instead it becomes a policy contest, a battle of ideas.

A referendum as to which party has the best plans for a low pollution economy.

A plan for a future of good jobs in new industries, powered by renewable energy.

This new debate can only be a good thing for Australia.

Policies for the future being weighed and measured by the Australian people.

As you know, Labor is committed to an Emissions Trading Scheme - a market solution for tackling climate change.

And we have also set a bold new goal for renewable energy.

50 per cent of Australia’s electricity to come from renewable energy, by 2030.

Yes, this is ambitious – but it is not impossible.

This isn’t about recklessly dashing ahead of the rest of the world.

This is a plan for Australia to catch-up and cash-in on the opportunities of the Asian Century.

Last year, China set a new target for non-fossil fuel to make up 20 per cent of its energy by 2030.

And if Australian firms only captured a tiny percentage of China’s growth in clean energy, this would still be a massive boost for jobs and investment in our country.

The same is true of India’s pursuit of a ‘saffron revolution’ in solar power, and Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious new goal for renewable energy.

In fact, across the Asia-Pacific Region, $2.5 trillion in investment in renewables is expected by 2030.

But our proximity to this opportunity is no guarantee.

After all, Australian researchers played a key role in early solar panel development.

But a lack of consistent support from the Howard Government, meant we lost our head-start.

Our nation cannot afford to repeat those mistakes.

There is a constructive role for government – indeed the whole Parliament - to play in securing renewable opportunities for Australia.

Creating market certainty for energy efficiency and renewable technology: investment, development and deployment.

Sending the right message to investors and creating the right climate for investment.

This is why a clear national goal is important.

Labor’s goal for renewable energy is not a matter of locking-in specific technology, or mechanisms.

Instead it stands as a declaration of intent:

  • Providing certainty and confidence for investors.

  • Spurring our researchers, innovators, start-ups and entrepreneurs on to new ideas and solutions

  • Creating the right regulatory framework for industries

  • And encouraging consumers - householders and businesses - to take charge of their power bills.

Labor is also determined to ensure an orderly transition to a clean energy economy, in a fair way, without leaving Australian workers behind.

Throughout my adult life, in 20 years of representing working people, I’ve seen more than my share of economic change and transition in industries and workplaces right across our nation.

I’ve learned we can’t turn back the hands of the economic clock.

We can’t close our eyes to change and hope it will pass us by.

We have to embrace change, to make sure it includes everyone.

And the best way to manage an economic transition, to create good jobs with a future, is to act early.

Being prepared is just as important as being adaptive.

A Shorten Labor Government will work with the industry, unions and communities to develop an Electricity Modernisation Plan.

A plan that:

  • delivers on our economy-wide emissions reduction targets

  • minimises the cost impacts on business and household consumers

  • provides opportunities for affected workers to be redeployed, retrained and supported through the transition

  • and helps local communities adapt to changes in key industries.

We will take a consultative and consensus-building approach, maintaining investment confidence and certainty for workers.

Above all, our priority is a managed, predictable long-term modernisation process for our electricity sector.

And we are determined to ensure that the energy intensive trade exposed sectors of our economy remain globally competitive.

Minerals production and sophisticated value-adding to minerals and hydrocarbon exports are part of Australia’s economic and energy future.

And recognising the special needs of these sectors in the re-negotiating of the RET was an important, bipartisan statement or support for jobs in these industries.

So often we underestimate the speed of technological change.

I’m sure you all know the stories.

The Western Union executive who told Alexander Graham Bell there was no market for an ‘electric toy’ like the telephone.

The President of IBM who foresaw a world market for ‘perhaps five’ computers.

There’s another one, which Al Gore shared with me in our meeting earlier this year.

In 1980, American telco, AT&T commissioned a study to forecast cellphone use by the year 2000.

They predicted 900,000 users.

The actual figure was 109 million.

Today it’s 6.9 billion.

The same under-estimations and constrained ambitions have been played out in the renewable energy debate.

Critics who confidently assert solar, or wind, or ocean energy will never be cheap enough, or reliable enough, or accessible enough to power our world.

I’m sure you’ve encountered this prejudice – often deeply ingrained.

But the evidence on the competitiveness of renewables is mounting every day.

At the start of this century, experts predicted that worldwide wind capacity would reach 30 gigawatts by 2010.

In fact, this goal was exceeded by a factor of 6.

By the end of last year, a factor of 12.

At the same time, it was said that the solar energy market would grow by one gigawatt a year by 2010.

This year, it will be exceeded by more than 50 times.

In investment, in capacity and in cost – renewables will continue to thrive.

In 1976 the cost of a solar cell was $79.40 a watt.

Bloomberg’s latest estimate puts it at around 50 cents.

In the last five years, solar photovoltaic prices have fallen by 75 per cent, and wind power costs have fallen by 14 per cent.

And over the next five years – costs are projected to halve.

Solar power will become the cheapest form of electricity generation in many parts of the world.

And the cost of battery storage has been halving every 18 months.

It is consumers – not government – who are driving this change.

A new generation of self-generators – mums and dads, small businesses and local councils.

Price setters – not price takers.

Gaining greater freedom and more choice.

Already, over 15,000 Australian small businesses have already taken up small scale solar, and taken control of their bills.

And this will only accelerate as the installation costs drop.

More than 1.4 million Australian families have embraced household solar power.

Bloomberg have said that within five years, the right combination of solar panels and battery storage will give you cheaper electricity than you get off the grid.

A host of manufacturers, providers and retailers have already announced their plans for battery storage in Australia.

And a new generation of innovative smaller retailers and start-ups are supporting solar energy management.

Christiana Figueres from the UNCC has praised the South Australian company ZEN Energy as a world leader in storage technology.

And Morgan Stanley has found that the solar and battery storage market could grow to 2.4 million Australian homes.

This shift in how Australians get and use our energy will be driven by the most fundamental economic precepts:

Demand: electricity costs and very high household solar penetration

And supply – ongoing, dramatic falls in costs of production, and better management of congestion.

But whether this change takes the form of a revolution or a series of incremental, hesitant steps depends on having the right policy settings in place and an unequivocal vision for the future.

The role of Government is to create the conditions for these opportunities – so markets can work effectively in the interests of the community.

To support innovation through the CEFC and ARENA, and to provide clear market signals for your companies to invest here and to expand here.

Labor will always send that message.

Because renewable energy is at the heart of our view of the jobs, industries and environment of the next century.

Friends, I firmly believe in the opportunities embracing a future of clean energy creates:

  • Innovative new industries

  • New technology, which Australia can export

  • New investment

  • Good jobs

  • Empowered consumers

An Australia competing and winning in the world.

An energy super-power and clean energy power-house.

A leading innovator and a growing, productive modern economy.

Your ideas, your investment and your businesses will be at the heart of our national success.

Thank you