Senator BACK (Western Australia) (18:11): History will record that Senator Urquhart’s words will come back
home to haunt her in the future, as indeed will many of those who have so derisively commented adversely on
the outcomes of this report. Let me put on the record that I am very much in favour of aspects of renewable
energy. I proudly ordered and had constructed the largest number of small-scale solar units, hot water systems
—some 240—ever in Western Australia. I also had responsibility for the first wind turbine in Western Australia.
It failed; in fact, the first four all failed. That is history.
I also want to place on the record my strong support for hydroelectricity in your state, Senator Urquhart, and in
the Snowy Mountains. When you can generate in the high peak periods and when you can use off-peak periods to
pump water back up to generate again the next time it is needed surely has to be the ultimate value of renewable
energy. I do not think wind turbines are a renewable energy source. I reflected on this driving back from Sydney
on Sunday. I happened to be looking at the wind turbines just out of Canberra and thought to myself that I want to
look at this in both environmental terms and economic terms. I said to myself, ‘What is the environmental benefit
of wind turbines?’ Of course, the benefit would be greenhouse gases forgiven during the generation process.
I said, ‘That’s good.’ So that is a positive benefit. What are the negatives? What do you have to take off that
greenhouse gas forgiven? Firstly, you have to take off the massive cost of greenhouse gases, the carbon dioxide,
used in the construction—the original iron ore, the steel, the transportation and the tens of thousands of tonnes
of concrete that go into each of these.
The committee had evidence—and Senator Urquhart did not like it much—from Mr Hamish Cumming, whom
I found to be a very credible witness, that about 16 years of the use of a wind turbine would be necessary before
you would actually get back to the cost-benefit of the greenhouse gases forgiven as a result of the construction.
Secondly, what do you take off that greenhouse gas benefit?