June 24, 2021
A powerful parliamentary committee has today started an inquiry into Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines MP’s renewable energy plan for regional Australia.
The House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy announced the commencement of the Inquiry on Thursday, calling for submissions from members of the public regarding Dr Haines’ two bills establishing the Australian Local Power Agency (ALPA).
Chair of the Committee, Mr Ted O’Brien MP, said “These Bills propose to create a new agency that would fund and support community-based energy projects.
“The Committee looks forward to hearing the views of the Australian people, businesses and other organisations, about the viability and merits of this proposal so we can provide informed advice to Parliament.”
If the ALPA bills were legislated, a new $467 million Agency would support regional communities to develop and invest in their own renewable energy projects.
This would include establishing 50 Local Power Hubs across regional Australia to support communities to develop their own renewable energy projects through grants of up to $500,000 a year for five years, as well as new forms of financial support including loans.
The ALPA bills would also implement a new requirement that all large-scale renewable projects offer local residents a chance to invest in them.
Dr Haines heralded the commencement of the inquiry as a step forward for regional Australia, and urged people interested in renewable energy and regional development to make a submission before Friday 9 July:
“Over 100 people and organisations made submissions to the development of my Local Power Plan, which formed the basis of my ALPA bills. I’d like to see over 100 submissions to this Inquiry, to show the Government that regional Australia is serious about the potential of renewable energy.
“In regional Australia, renewables are being built at lightning pace, but we’re not seeing enough local jobs, we’re not seeing enough local procurement and we’re seeing all the profits flow to the cities, rather than staying here where they are generated.
“The idea behind ALPA is simple: every electron generated in the regions should be money coming back into the pockets of everyday regional people, not going offshore.
“Every spin of a wind turbine and every drop of sunlight should be generating income that stays in our communities.
“The Victorian Government’s equivalent to my Local Power Hubs delivered a 13-to-1 return on Government investment, indicating a possible $4 billion increase in economic activity in regional Australia as a result of the investment in ALPA.”
Dr Haines said that since she introduced the ALPA bills into Parliament in February, the peak agricultural body National Farmers Federation had endorsed her plan. She said she had spoken to dozens of MPs across the political spectrum and support for her proposal was growing.
“Members of all parties recognise that the trend towards renewables is unstoppable, and yet there is a deadlock right now on energy policy. I’m offering ALPA as a sensible policy to consider as a way we might move forward on this vexed issue,” she said.
“Yesterday I met with the new Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and told him my plan should be adopted as Nationals party policy as it was good for farmers and good for regional Australians.
“I followed this with meetings with the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud and Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor.
“What I’m saying to them is that this is their opportunity. I’m urging them to support ALPA and truly make Australia the renewables powerhouse it should be.”
Written submissions to the inquiry close on Friday 9 July 2021. Interested parties can make a submission by visiting the inquiry website https://www.aph.gov.au/LocalPowerAgency or through Dr Haines’ website: https://www.helenhaines.org/bills/australian-local-power-agency.
A one-day public hearing will take place on either Friday 6 or Friday 13 August.
The Committee will then make recommendations to government about whether to adopt Dr Haines’ Bill to establish the new agency, with a final report to be considered by the Committee on Wednesday 20 or 27 October.