In 2013, our Federal MP, Angus Taylor, said the Southern Tablelands had more wind farms than any other area in Australia and would continue to do so if proposed projects went ahead.
He was right and his forecast was not far off either, with our region one of the three leading locations in Australia for wind turbines.
The first wind farm in NSW was commissioned in 1998 at Crookwell, producing 5 megawatts. Since then we have seen the Cullerin Range wind farm, Capital and Woodlawn, Gunning, Gullen Range, Taralga and, most recently, Crookwell 2.
Collector has received approval for a 228MW wind farm and on the drawing boards is Rye Park which, at a projected 320MW would be more than 60 times bigger than Crookwell 1.
The new Crookwell farm of 91MW was officially opened last November. Notable by his absence was Angus Taylor, although you might expect the local member to attend such an event, all the more so because he is also the Minister for Energy.
Looking back at his public record provides a clue to why he was otherwise engaged on the day. As a minister, he has been more circumspect, but as a freewheeling candidate and backbencher, he was happy to get some things off his chest.
In a letter to the Goulburn Post in 2013, he described subsidies for wind farms as "economic lunacy and bad public policy". He railed against "a massive, unintended policy failure" and "the absurdity of the economics of wind farms".
So it would be interesting to know whether his views have changed. More than interesting, we are entitled to know as voters and we deserve to be told as local employees and businesses.
Among the local firms working on just one project, the Crookwell 2 farm, were Divalls, Concrete 4 Goulburn, Multiquip Aggregate, Coopers Earthmoving, Tutt Bryant, Clancy Constructions, Nathan Contracting, Hollingsworth Cranes, Pearson Engineering, RA & SF McLean and Delly Plumbing.
According to estimates by the Clean Energy Council in 2013, that one project involved an investment of $200 million and created 80 jobs directly, as well as many more indirectly through the flow on effects to other businesses.
Rye Park is bigger still, involving an investment of $550 million and 250 direct jobs, all of it in the Hume electorate.
As well as putting money directly into the local economy, wind farms support local communities. Apart from substantial annual payments to landholders, millions of dollars are spent through so called community enhancement funds.
For example, the Gullen Range wind farm distributes $138,000 a year through such means as grants of up to $6500 to residents and businesses within 5km for energy efficiency measures such as solar hot water and solar panels. The Collector wind farm is planning a $200,000 annual contribution to community projects.
As voters, we also deserve to know our federal MP's real attitude to climate change. In August last year, Taylor told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I am not sceptical about climate science." Clear enough? But wait, there's more.
"But I am and have been for many years deeply sceptical of the economics of so many emissions reduction programs dreamed up by politicians, vested interests and technocrats around the world."
In the same month he told shock jock Ray Hadley that "the obsession with emissions at the expense of reliability and affordability has been a massive mistake".
So does that mean Taylor thinks we can afford to do less to reduce our carbon emissions, say by not building as many wind or solar farms? And would this be despite the fact that, according to his own Energy Department, emissions have been going up ever since the carbon tax was abolished in 2014, even though he claimed recently they were going down, based on one three month period? And that we remain one of the highest producers of greenhouse gases per capita in the world? And what does Mr Taylor see as the implications of less support for wind farms for jobs and local businesses?
Taylor has argued in the past that the "subsidies" for wind power can be better spent in other ways.
But the subsidies do not come from taxpayers; instead they are paid by electricity companies which are required under the Renewable Energy Target to purchase a specified proportion of clean energy. In the past this has fed into higher electricity prices but only to a minor extent.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, environmental costs contribute just seven per cent to consumer electricity bills. The real subsidies go to fossil fuels and the biggest of them is that carbon polluters pay nothing for the global warming for which they are responsible. Increasingly, clean energy will be reducing power bills because renewable energy is now the cheapest to produce.
So here's a win-win: more wind power, more solar farms, more rooftop solar will bring electricity prices down. Combine it with the ability to store renewable energy through batteries and pumped hydro schemes and we will have a reliable energy supply and one that does not contribute to cooking the planet.
Over to you, Angus: tell us what you're really thinking these days.
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