Meet the Small Parties: Renewable Energy Party

The Renewable Energy Party wants you to know that Renewable Energy is our Future, and then follows this up with an immediate plea to ‘Please help us expand our membership in the lead up to the 2016 Federal Election’.  Oh dear. They are basically a single-issue party, but it’s an important issue, and one our governments have not been much good at addressing, so I’m rather in favour.

The Renewable Energy party seems to have been founded by Peter Breen, who was our good friend Ricky Muir’s former advisor up until he was sacked in August 2014.  I’m not sure what to make of that, so I’ll just leave it there.

Here is what they have to say about themselves:

The Renewable Energy Party is a new political party registered under Australian law. Help us to assert our right and the right of our children to live in a clean and healthy environment. Our party is a community-based organisation that is working to build an environmentally friendly and non-polluting energy future right now. The technology exists and the need for change is urgent and evident.

The major parties in Australia, beholden to coal and gas companies, have made a complete mess of climate change policy.

As concerned citizens and voters, we are no longer willing to sit back and watch as the Liberal-
National Coalition and Labor continue to make disastrous energy decisions backed by a compliant mainstream media, at the expense of our children’s future.

(The awful thing about writing this while jetlagged is that just about anything becomes a song lyric, and now I have Whitney Houston singing about how the children are our future on endless repeat in my head…)

The REP is very much playing the ‘think of the children’ card, and even have that quote about not inheriting the earth from our parents but borrowing it from our children at the foot of their homepage.  But they are also playing the economy card in a big way:

We want Australians and Australian businesses to benefit from the extraordinary opportunities in renewable energy. We do not want multinational fossil fuel giants operating from overseas tax havens to get the lion’s share of taxpayer energy subsidies…

Renewable energy creates more jobs per unit of energy delivered than fossil or nuclear fuels. Our aim is to put pressure on the major political parties to redirect the $23 billion in taxpayer funded subsidies paid annually to oil, gas and coal companies to renewable energy enterprises.

They are in favour of science, a carbon price, public transport, fast trains, and finding ways to power cars and public transport without fossil fuels.  They want a better feed-in tariff for renewable energy, and to work with our neighbours on climate change and renewables, and they oppose the current TPP.

The REP tells us that its policies are based on:

  • The employment and economic opportunities for Australia in building the energy systems of the future for both electricity and transport.
  • The utmost urgency in moving to net zero emissions to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
  • The need to engage the whole community and all levels of government in making the transition to a renewable and sustainable future.
  • A recognition that a sustainable future which provides safety, security and meaningful engagement for all citizens of the world is incompatible with the vast inequalities that exist today in access to political power, income and capital.

Look, this is all good stuff, and I can’t see much need for analysis here, so I’m largely going to summarise their policies.  I do like, by the way, the fact that they are science-driven but also want to pay attention to social and economic impacts of their policies.  We need both of these things.

The REP’s goals are to derive all of our electricity from renewables by 2030, and 40% of its transport needs from renewables by 2035, with net greenhouse gas emissions at zero by 2050 at the latest.

They want to invest in and train a clean energy workforce, and ensure a ‘just transition for coal communities with programs for orderly closure of coal fired power stations, site rehabilitation and retraining of the workforce’.  This is, I think, going to be the most difficult policy to implement, because governments are really not good at shelling out money to retrain people whose skills are now redundant, and many coal communities are already doing poorly. They also want to provide assistance to farmers in adapting to climate-related changes, which might be an easier sell, because everyone likes to say they are supporting farmers.

They also point out that many natural disasters are becoming more frequent and extreme with climate change, and that government planning and policies need to take this into account.
To reform the electricity market, they want to change our targets, as mentioned above, and support the transition to renewables, reforming the electricity market rules ‘so that networks are rewarded for future services they provide in supporting distributed generation and energy conservation rather than being rewarded for the over-investment of the past’.  This sounds like a polite way to say ‘no more fossil fuel subsidies’, and I agree with it.
Oh, and here in their energy policy they actually do say ‘remove fossil fuel subsidies… and reallocate the money to funding the transition to renewables’, so there you go.  They want to double our productivity, and restore the carbon price, and I love how they phrase this:
Provide industry with certainty and support long term investments through a predictable and increasing price on greenhouse gas emissions.
The REP wants to build more renewables, and support local communities who come up with initiatives to generate renewable energy or engage in energy efficiency.
And they want to restore and increase funding for CSIRO and ARENA, and support investment in innovation and commercialisation through initiatives such as the CRCs and CEFC.

The REP views the transition to renewable energy as an investment opportunity, and point out that Australia’s high exposure to sunlight, long coastline and prevailing wind conditions give us many advantages – and that we need to make the most of this, because we have been relying on fossil fuels which really will run out.  They also point out that we really do have the technology, skills and knowledge to make the most of this, so we should.

It’s going to be quite straightforward deciding where you want to put this party on your ballot paper.  If you think man-made climate change is real, they should go high.  If not, obviously not.  There really are no hidden agendas here – the Renewable Energy Party is what it says on the box – a party that wants to help Australia transition to a renewable energy economy.  Their policies look pretty good, and might even balance financially – they do at least show signs of having thought about economics, which is something one cannot, alas, always rely on.  And they are pro-science.  As single-issue parties go, this is a pretty good one, in my book.

2 thoughts on “Meet the Small Parties: Renewable Energy Party

  1. I would agree with your conclusion, but I really can’t get past the personalities involved in this party. For Peter Breen this is at least the sixth party he’s been involved in during the last two decades, with no common ideological thread linking the six. Both he and Graham Askey, the lead Senate candidate for Victoria, have made self-serving and unsound contributions to the debate about the Senate voting reforms. The lead WA candidate seems a bit more genuine, but I’ve actually found myself placing the Renewable Energy Party much lower in my preferences than I expected. (Still above the Hinchs, LNPs, Lambies, etc. of this electoral world, but low all the same.)

    • Yes, I pretty much look at the policies, but don’t research the individual candidates much, unless I am feeling deeply suspicious about a policy. I think your knowledge of who’s who in Australian politics goes significantly deeper than mine. I do feel disadvantaged by not getting a chance to look at who everyone is preferencing this time. Annoying timing!

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