Lack of Efficient Policy Suffocating Small Scale Wind Turbine Industry

MURDOCH University researchers have identified the key reasons behind why the small scale wind turbine 

The renewable energy industry is still a relatively niche economic market, but without long term planning for investment through well thought out policy there will continue to be a lack of SWT growth. Image: K Ali

(SWT) industry has failed to grow in Western Australia.

The study, conducted by the School of Engineering and Energy, investigated federal and state support policies that are in place to encourage the start up of grid connected SWTs, but found that it is the policy that is letting down the industry.

Feed in Tariffs (FiT) are designed to connect the SWTs or other renewable energy generators to a grid network to guarantee long term certainty for investors through a predetermined purchase price of ten years.

Yet FiT policy is implemented by each state, and WA suspended any new connections to the electricity grid last year after reaching the total capacity of connection to the grid.

Dr Jonathan Whale from the National Small Wind Turbine Centre at Murdoch University, and co-researcher of the study, believes that both federal and state policy has lead to the SWT industry suffering.

“At a state level, feed-in tariffs have been introduced at too high a level, and then either slashed or removed. This has affected any technology that the FiTs apply to—domestic solar as well as domestic wind.”

“One promising option for SWTs is that Horizon Power, the electricity utility for regional areas, announced this year that they would buyback electricity at a rate somewhere in between 10–50 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on location. The best wind resources in our State are in regional areas, particularly the South West of our state, and this incentive could boost the number of SWTs we see in regional areas,” Dr Whale says.

The renewable energy industry is still a relatively niche economic market, but without long term planning for investment through well thought out policy there will continue to be a lack of SWT growth.

“If there continues to be a lack of efficient policy, it will slow down the growth of the renewable energy industry so it is important to get the right policy mechanisms in place. Policy also goes hand in hand with planning and at the same time it is also important to streamline the planning approval process,” Dr Whale says.

The Federal Government’s renewable energy target of 20 per cent renewables by the year 2020 is a policy that is currently favouring large scale wind and solar investment over smaller projects.

“Projects are favoured that contribute the most to achieving the target—this has been large scale renewable projects. Large wind farms have been leading the way in meeting the target and we are now seeing the introduction of some large solar farms as well,” Dr Whale says.

By Morgan Pettersson

*Originally published on Science Network W.A. It can be read here*

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