Hello Newman, so long renewables?

The proposed head of Tony Abbott's Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, has labelled wind farms "a crime against the people" and called for the RET to be scrapped altogether. It's the latest insight into a divided Coalition.

Maurice Newman, the proposed head of Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council should the Coalition win office, has again made his dislike for wind farms known, calling for the Renewable Energy Target to be trashed with the simplistic assertion that it is a “crime against the people.”

“When we look at the science it no longer supports the global warming theory and when we look at the health and economic effects of wind farms and the obscene wealth transfer from poor to rich we have to ask: why are we persisting with them?,” he said, according to a report in the Guardian Australia this week.

“I think it is a crime against the people.”

Even without questioning his climate change viewpoint or claims about health effects – which we've dicussed many times previously on Climate Spectator, it’s worth asking: who’s rich in the wind industry?

The biggest players in the Australian sector are hardly setting the world alight with profits.

Take global turbine suppliers Vestas and Suzlon, both seeing their share prices tank in recent times with red ink flowing freely. Or project developers like the ASX-listed Infigen Energy, which hasn’t recorded a profit since financial year 2009.

The other main players, Pacific Hydro and AGL Energy, are harder to gauge given the former is a private company and the latter is a diversified energy company. It’s fair to say, however, that neither would be rolling in money thanks to wind.

Perhaps when Newman refers to rich taking from poor, he means lawyers and bankers from the wind companies and their shareholders.

Newman, a former chair of the ABC and ASX, has put up a strong front against wind since the decision to build the Crookwell wind farms, which are near to his property in New South Wales. His wife, Jeanette, is on the Executive Committee of the Crookwell District of the Landscape Guardians – a prominent anti-wind power voice.

During his time as chair of the ABC he courted controversy with the accusation media outlets were involved with groupthink on climate change. At the time Newman claimed he was “agnostic” but realistically, given he has since boasted the “science is in tatters”, that appears to be far from the truth.

His latest comments provide yet another insight into the forces that will be pulling Abbott to make significant changes to clean energy policy, specifically the RET.

Such forces will be vividly on show next week when Stop These Things, a site run anonymously, tees up an anti-wind farm rally in Canberra. The protest, which will have the presence of Coalition senators Chris Back and Ron Boswell as well as Coalition backbencher Craig Kelly, is an exercise in misinformation.

The press release to promote it starts on the wrong foot – and stays there.

“Power bills have sky-rocketed and are set to double again – and all because of wind power,” the first sentence reads.

Anyone with the slightest understanding of why power prices have risen would know this to be blatantly false. The bulk of power price increases have been due to network expenditure.

“(As a result of the RET), household power prices are set to more than double again over the next 2-3 years,” it continues.

Power price rises are anticipated to moderate by the Australian Energy Market Commission over coming years and won’t go close to doubling. More to the point, the RET will not be the main contributor, with wholesale and distribution charges the key drivers. Indeed, the large-scale renewables target “added an additional 0.4 c/kWh annually to the retail component in 2011/12 and is estimated to remain around this level until 2014/15”. In other words, about 1.5 per cent.

What is alarming about this is that Back, Boswell and Kelly, along with Senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon – who could hold the balance of power from September, are aligning themselves with this sort of deception. It doesn’t bode well when thinking about the future for Coalition policy, particularly not in light of Newman’s recent foray into the arena.

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