Australia launches energy white paper

Nov. 8, 2012 at 4:11 PM
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BRISBANE, Australia, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Australia has issued its energy white paper considered to be the centerpiece of Australia's future energy policy.

The white paper "faces up to major challenges such as rising energy prices, pressures in Australia's gas markets, remaining competitive in the development of our energy resources, maintaining our liquid fuel security and bringing new clean energy technologies to market," said Australia's Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson in launching the document Thursday.

The right policies were necessary to respond to the massive transformation under way in the country's energy and energy resource sectors, he said.

"Positive outcomes can only be assured through policy frameworks that shape effective market outcomes, manage uncertainty and attract investment in energy resources and infrastructure," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said that nearly two decades of cooperative reform in Australia has built "a world-class energy sector that is the envy of and model for many other nations."

The paper suggests that Australia could "rival" Qatar as the world's biggest gas exporter as exports increase 19 percent annually.

Ferguson noted that since the last energy white paper in 2004, exports of Australia's liquefied natural gas, for example, had increased nearly fourfold to more than $12 billion annually.

The white paper said the government would reject calls for market intervention in the gas sector, including any policy that would force big producers to reserve a portion of gas for domestic use rather than the lucrative export market.

"Such measures should be a matter of last resort, undertaken only where there is clear evidence of market failure," the paper said.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, the peak body representing the country's oil and gas sector, applauded the government's free-market gas stance.

"Australia's LNG sector is currently investing more than $180 billion in new projects and will create more than 100,000 Australian jobs this year," association Chief Executive Officer David Byers said in a statement.

"Only a market-based energy policy framework can enhance Australia's attractiveness as a place to do business and encourage the tens of billions of dollars worth of gas industry investment still to be approved," Byers said.

As for electricity, the white paper calls for deregulation of electricity pricing and the roll-out of smart meters. Ferguson noted that average retail electricity prices in Australia have risen about 40 percent over the past four years and above 50 percent in some states.

The white paper says that clean energy technologies can provide 40 percent of Australia's electricity by 2035 and up to 85 percent by 2050. Australia relies on coal for 75 percent of its electricity.

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