Alan Jones - Champion of Renewable Energy?

22nd July 2015
Going Solar - Sunset over Melbourne

Regardless of your view on Climate Change, renewable energy makes sense and should be part of the policy portfolio of all the major parties. You would think a positive renewables policy would have a natural home in the Liberal Party but as we know Tony Abbot has a contrary view. Former Liberal Party leader John Hewson however is a keen supporter of renewables (correctly declaring his interest before commenting on the subject on The Drum recently).

Giles Parkinson suggests in REneweconomy (21/7/15) that conservative broadcaster Alan Jones should also be a champion for renewable energy: “For consumers, Jones’ prime audience, solar already wins the day. It costs around 11c/kWh to produce (just ask Origin Energy, that’s the selling price for the output from rooftop solar panels they are installing), while consumers saddled with the over-investment in the grid are being charged 30c/kWh or more for predominantly coal based power.

“Jones likes to project that fact that he is a champion of the underdog and of protecting consumers, and their rights, notwithstanding his sponsorship from big corporates.

“This is the underlying philosophy of the right-wing Tea Party movement in the US, and one of the reasons why influential elements of that organisation have embraced solar, to the point where they have been dubbed the Green Tea Party. Indeed, Debbie Dooley, one of the organisers of the first nationwide Tea Party protests, in 2009, now co-sponsors a movement called the Green Tea Coalition, with the help of environmental NGOs such as the Sierra Club, which are battling fossil fuel astro-turf and lobbying groups over solar policies. ‘I thought that the regulated monopoly in Georgia had far too much power’, Dooley told the New Yorker in an interview recently. ‘They had begun to look out for the best interests of their stockholders instead of their utility customers’. Solar, she said, promised to give people energy autonomy. ‘The average person cannot build a power plant, but they can install solar panels on their rooftop, and they should be able to sell that energy to friends and neighbours if they wish’.

“That is exactly the same issue being faced in Australia, and exactly the cause that Jones should be taking up. The industry, and the consumers, Jones’ own listeners, understand this. At the height of his, the Murdoch media’s and the Coalition’s railing against the carbon tax because of its supposed impact on electricity prices, the solar sector deliberately targeted News Ltd papers and talk-back radio for their advertising campaign.

“They understood that the sector of the market most disturbed by rising prices would be quick to seize on a technology that could help reduce those prices. That technology is rooftop solar, about to be joined by battery storage, in a development that will tip the balance of power from the world’s most powerful industry, to consumers. Over the coming years, the rights of those consumers, pitched against a range of powerful vested interests looking to slow down the transition, will be a critical event. Just like farmers versus coal and CSG. You could hardly imagine a better cause for Jones to champion.”

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