The ALP's clean energy communication problem

Labor, compared to the former Coalition government, has done plenty for the renewable energy sector, so why are they keeping it quiet?

According to this week’s Fairfax Nielsen Poll, Labor is in deep trouble with a primary vote intention of only 27 per cent. The party’s talk about making “bold economic reforms” is falling flat with voters.

Two weeks ago I wrote about how Labor’s efforts to neutralise Tony Abbott by appeasing polluter interests has been largely fruitless. Instead I argued they should actually play-up their differences to the Coalition by branding themselves as the champion of the clean energy sector (What Gillard could learn from Liberal Party lobbyists, March 21).  

And this week’s charts of the week provide a pretty compelling story to do just that.

The first chart shows the amount of solar PV capacity installed per annum during the Howard Government and then how much has been installed since Labor took office just prior to 2008. In the first two years of the Labor Government, more solar was installed than in the preceding ten years under the Liberal-National Government. And those two years were small beer compared to what happened in the subsequent two years.

Annual installations of solar photovoltaics – Liberal/National vs Labor Governments

Sources: International Energy Agency PVPS and Green Energy Markets

While not quite as impressive, in solar hot water the differences between the Labor Government and the prior government are still very stark. Similar to solar PV, in the first two years of the Labor Government more solar hot water systems were installed than in the preceding seven years under the Howard Government. The average number of solar water heaters installed per annum under Labor was 380 per cent higher than during the Howard years. 

Number of solar and heat-pump water heaters sold in Australia per year

Sources: Clean Energy Council and Green Energy Markets

Wind also provides a compelling story, especially if you take into account the 2013 election year when AGL’s giant Macarthur wind farm is expected to come on line.  Average annual capacity installed over the period Labor will have been in power is 430 per cent higher than under the prior Liberal-National government.

Annual installations of wind power capacity – Liberal/National vs Labor Governments

For all the whinging of the renewable energy sector (and I do my share of it I have to admit), the sector has done pretty well relative to the past.  

Makes you wonder why the Labor Party hasn’t been telling anybody about this. Perhaps they should stop talking about how they are taking “bold economic reform” to reduce emissions which the electorate doesn’t understand. Instead they might want to talk more about their Renewable Energy Target and what they’ve actually delivered to date. Who knows, their poll numbers might start to improve.