Newly elected independent MP Zali Steggall has issued a call-to-arms to the Australian renewable energy sector to get behind like-minded candidates and political parties, and says she sees opportunities to replicate her successful campaign in Warringah.
Speaking at the Australian Energy Storage conference in Sydney, Steggall says she remains optimistic for Australia's renewable energy sector and called on the clean energy sector to proactively back industry allies to undertake grassroots campaigns supporting candidates to win election to parliaments.
“If we are to maximise the pace of the industry's development, the lessons of the election have shown that if you want a desirable outcome, you have to get involved at every step, wherever you are located, whomever your local member is,” Steggall told the conference.
“You have to get involved in creating outcomes. The industry has the capacity to get behind local independents, like myself, and other parties who are determined to see Australia as a hub for world-beating clean technology.
“This does mean getting active. You can't just passively sit back and hope for things to improve or change. You have to be active in creating change. It will mean meeting with ministers, donating to parties or individuals, running advertising campaigns. You have to raise awareness.
“I was encouraged by the support the industry showed me during the campaign. It was certainly a huge part of why we were successful.”
Support for the continued emergence of storage technologies in Australia is a key priority for Steggall in Canberra, saying that it is crucial that funding for ARENA and the CEFC are extended and their investment mandate expanded, to support storage technologies.
“A lot can still be done at a Federal level. We still need to confirm targets for renewable generation and for energy storage, and for new innovation and investment. These policies will support renewables; a job-creating, clean, safe, reliable and affordable source of power,” Steggall said.
“ARENA and the CEFC have been essential in commercialising the early-stage ventures and they will play a crucial role in enabling the uptake of battery storage. It's well known that we might not have the success we have today, without these agencies.”
Steggall identified the looming end of the Renewable Energy Target as a key threat to strong investment that has been made in the renewable energy sector in recent years.
She believed that it would be necessary to extend the RET, or to implement the Turnbull Government's National Energy Guarantee, to provide the right market signal to support further investment in renewables.
“Our existing Renewable Energy Target has driven investment in renewables so far, but it does expire in 2020.” (Ed: To be accurate, the target is due to be met by 2020, which it will be, but it will provide no incentive for future investment even though the scheme itself runs to 2030).
“We do currently have a political deadlock, which means there is nothing to replace it, or it hasn't currently been extended. Either a new Renewable Energy Target, or the proposed National Energy Guarantee could work.
“The need for policy certainty is regularly raised by the business sector. I was encouraged by NSW energy minister Matthew Kean saying that he hadn't given up on the National Energy Guarantee. With bipartisan state and federal support, the National Energy Guarantee could be an easy win for a re-elected Morrison Government.”
Steggall confirmed that she had yet to have discussions with energy minister Angus Taylor, but had already had discussions with other coalition ministers, as well as representatives within Labor.
Steggall said that she was rapidly establishing her office and connections in Canberra who will formally be sworn in as the member for Warringah when Parliament reconvenes on 2 July.
Steggall was elected after securing a significant swing away from the long-time incumbent, former prime minister and climate and energy laggard Tony Abbott. At the final declaration of the result by the Australian Electoral Commission, Steggall had secured 43.46% of the primary vote in an electorate that had only ever been held by conservative parties since federation.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.