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Australia May Boost Renewable Energy Projects

A surge in voter support for the Australian Greens, a political party that supports sustainable growth, has spurred optimism that the government may increase funding to renewable energy projects, Bloomberg News reports.

The Greens garnered a record number of votes in the general election Aug. 21 after Australia’s ruling Labor Party delayed plans to start an emissions trading system until after 2012.  Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott are both fighting to form Australia’s next government because neither of their parties won a clear majority.

The rush in popular support for the Greens may prompt whoever forms the government to spend more on developing renewable energy projects and to disburse the money faster,  according to executives in the industry.

“It has to be good for us, whichever way you look at the election,” said Terry Kallis, managing director of geothermal company Petratherm, in the Bloomberg article. “The Greens may have a lot of opportunity to influence legislation.”

Renewable energy now supplies just 6 percent of power in Australia, but renewable energy projects appear to be on the rise.

One of the reasons that Australia has not pursued renewable energy until recently,  is that the country has too many energy resources, and too much cheap coal. The country is the leading exporter of coal in the world, and it generates about 80 percent of its electricity through coal-fired power stations, the New York Times reported.

Complicating matters, the very sources  of Australia’s clean energy — its vast outback and nearly 37,000 miles, of coast — are major obstacles to linking new, remote power sources into the nation’s power grid.

But recently, Australia has begun to move forward with clean energy products. Revised renewable energy targets passed in June earmarked 20 billion Australian dollars, or nearly $18 billion, for clean energy technologies by 2020 and are expected to create 28,000 new jobs.

On Aug. 12, the largest energy retailer in Australia, A.G.L. Energy, and New Zealand’s state-owned Meridian Energy announced that they would build a billion-dollar wind farm in Macarthur, in Victoria State. Its 140 wind turbines would make it the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, generating enough power for 220,000 homes and abating 1.7 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, Boomberg reported.

Worldwide, investment in renewable energy has boomed in recent years, with some $190 billion worth of new clean energy in 2008, according to the Renewables Global Status Report for 2009. The number of large solar plants tripled to 1,800 between 2007 and 2008, with the majority of new plants in Spain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Portugal. The United States, the world’s biggest source of wind energy, installed five times Australia’s total wind energy capacity in 2008 alone.

A Frost & Sullivan study reports that the wind turbine services market in Australia and New Zealand earned revenues of $64.5 million in 2009 and estimates it will increase to $152.9 million in 2016.

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