Describe the purpose and function of the new Clean Energy Regulator, and how it will replace the current Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator.
The Clean Energy Regulator has been established to bring together a number of things which all have the objective of reducing carbon emissions in Australia. They all have a common feature in their design, which is that they operate market-based instruments of various sorts of carbon units.
The scope includes the planned carbon price, the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System Scheme, the Renewable Energy Target (RET), and also the newly-launched Carbon Farming Initiative.
The overall objective of the Clean Energy Regulator is to contribute to the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Future package, which – through the administering all of those instruments – will aim to reduce carbon emissions in Australia.Article continues below…
The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator will essentially form a very important part of the Clean Energy Regulator, and people who have been doing business with the office will see very little difference between the two, as they’ll be dealing with the same people and the schemes will be carried out in the same way.
What will your new position as Chief Executive and Chair of the new Clean Energy Regulator involve?
I am ultimately accountable for the performance of the Regulator in two ways: as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), I am accountable for the use of the resources, such as financial management, people management and making sure we have the systems and processes that will allow us to operate those schemes for which we are responsible.
As Chair, along with other members of the Regulator (for which appointments are currently in progress), I’ll be accountable for the performance of the regulator in terms of administering the various bits of legislation for which we are responsible.
What encouraged you to take on this position?
I’ve been thinking one way or another about climate change policy for at least 20 years, and I’ve always believed that it’s important to have an effective pricing mechanism and a market-based mechanism to instigate the right incentives and to make people reduce their emissions, either by operating more efficiently or moving to lower emissions technologies. I’ve believed for a long time that it would be very difficult to make that shift, given the way our economy works, without that kind of mechanism.
When I had the opportunity to take this role it seemed to me that it was one that was very important to do well. I think that I can make a contribution in terms of the administration and the setting up and running of the Clean Energy Regulator.
For me it is very exciting, it’s a great opportunity and a privilege to work in this environment and I’ll give it my best shot.
How will your experience as Chair of the National Water Commission assist you in your new role at the Clean Energy Regulator?
There are a number of skills that overlap. The most relevant thing is the experience I’ve had in watching and reporting on water reform. If you think about water in the Murray River system, there they have a cap and trade system effectively, and water entitlements are traded. A system like this has given the benefit of flexibility for irrigators to choose how they run their business.
The other skill that will overlap is that during my time at the National Water Commission, I learnt how to get things done and work with people. I’ve also learnt the importance of good communication.
What are some of the goals you will set out to achieve during your time as Chair and CEO of the Clean Energy Regulator?
My goals for the moment are very much focussed on the short term. The Regulator started on 2 April 2012, and there are a series of milestones to pass until we get to 1 July, which will see the commencement of the carbon pricing mechanism.
My goals for the short term are making sure we have the people and the processes in place to do all those things effectively, and particularly to make sure that the various entities and parties we deal with will be liable under the new scheme, and to make sure they really understand what they need to do.
The education process is an important part of our responsibility under the Clean Energy Future Plan, so that’s where we are focussed – to make sure it is set up properly and to engage with the people who need to understand how it works.
Then in the longer term, I think it’s important that we can show that this works, that it is effective and that business can take advantage of the opportunities that come about through this system. We’ve already seen that under the RET; we’ve seen the trajectory of growth and new businesses who have taken advantage of the scheme.
In the longer term I think it’s essential that we see a carbon price as a normal part of how we do business in Australia.
What are some issues you predict will be debated in the Australian clean energy industry in 2012? How can clean energy industry stakeholders face them?
From the point of view of the Regulator, we are impartial, and in some ways we don’t have a particular view on which direction the industry will go. I do think, however, that one of the topical issues will be role that gas plays. It will continue to be debated as its role as an intermediate fuel well into the future.
I think the other challenge for renewables will be round transmission and storage. Those are elements which are important in terms of scaling up the proportion of renewable electricity that enters the grid.
Having both the RET and the carbon price operating together will be beneficial as they’re complementary and will bring forward many opportunities for people in the clean energy industry. People in the industry need to be entrepreneurial to make this happen, and those that do really need to be admired for what they do.
There is a really interesting mix of technologies coming into play, and for some of the new contenders it will be interesting to see how they come into play in a more significant scale. Those businesses will need to have a good investment case for making it work.