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What's happening with native forest biomass under the RET?

Estimates & Committees
Janet Rice 10 Feb 2016

Senator RICE: Hullo, everyone. Last estimates, in response to questions on notice from the Greens, you discussed the results of a voluntary survey of power stations as to whether they were planning to burn wood from native forests for energy under the renewable energy target, and five responded that they were. Can you tell us which five they were?

Ms Munro: Mr Williamson will be able to identify those. Essentially it is a subset of power stations which were previously accredited for native timber wood waste as a fuel source. They have said they have certainly kept that option open. It does not mean to say that they are. In fact, our overall observation of this is really that we have seen no change. There have been no new power stations seeking registration for this. We have seen no change in the number of certificates that have been issued for this narrower class of fuel. I think Mr Williamson will have all of that to hand now.

Mr Williamson: I believe I might need to seek some advice from Mr Purvis-Smith. I do not believe I can name those from the survey. What I can say in addition to what Ms Munro has said is that, of those five, only one since the legislation passed has created any wood waste large generation certificates, and there is no suggestion that any of those wood waste certificates relate to native forest wood waste.

Senator RICE: So which one was that?

Ms Munro: I am sorry; I think we are advised that we cannot disclose that. There is quite a lot of information that is protected under the legislation.

Mr Purvis-Smith: Under the Clean Energy Regulator Act, any information that we obtain in the course of our duties is what is called protected information, and it should only be disclosed in very certain circumstances. I think the nature of this information would contain some commercial-in-confidence information. I understand that the normal practice of the Senate committees is that commercial in confidence would not ordinarily be a reason not to disclose, but we have the added impact of the protected information provisions. I think it is important that when we conduct these surveys we are able to receive that information from industry so that we can do an assessment of what is happening. Perhaps the better course might be for us to take that question on notice and for us to consider how we might be able to release that information.

Senator RICE: If you could, that would be much appreciated.

Mr Purvis-Smith: Thank you.

Senator RICE: Have you had any further responses to the survey since you answered that last question on notice?

Ms Munro: Not that I am aware of.

Mr Williamson: There have been some other responses. Of the only ones that have not responded so far, all of them bar one have never created a certificate from wood waste of any description. The one that has not responded that has created some wood waste is in New South Wales, where there are state laws prohibiting the use of native forest wood waste. In essence, there was no need to follow up those nonrespondents, because they simply were not in a category where they could be using native forest wood waste.

Senator RICE: Do you know whether the Hazelwood power station is one of those and has any plans to burn wood from native forests for energy?

Mr Williamson: As Mr Purvis-Smith said, we would need to take that on notice—as for the other—in terms of whether or not we can specifically talk about any response from an individual power station. I can certainly say they have never created a large generation certificate at all.

Senator RICE: Have any native forest linked certificates been created under the RET since June 2015?

Mr Williamson: No.

Senator RICE: Are you aware of the call by the Tasmanian Minister for Resources, Paul Harriss, for proposals for burning wood from native forest—from the Southern Forests—via an expressions-of-interest process that ends on 17 February?

Ms Munro: We are aware of that—of media reports, naturally—but we have not been engaged in any processes with respect to potential accreditation of such a power station, so it is premature for us to comment on that.

Senator RICE: Has the minister or the Tasmanian department been in touch, been in contact, with you about it?

Ms Munro: No. To be honest, this is an early stage in the development process, so we would not necessarily expect that.

Senator RICE: Is there currently any power station registered to burn biomass in the Huon Valley?

Mr Williamson: In Tasmania there is one power station which could, but the information we have is that it has not operated for a number of years, and it has not generated any LGCs, large generation certificates, from wood waste of any type for the last three calendar years.

Senator RICE: Can you tell me whether that is in the Huon Valley?

Mr Williamson: Again, for the reasons Mr Purvis-Smith gave before, I think we would need to take that on notice. But there are no accredited power stations in Tasmania that have been creating any large generation certificates for a number of years.

Senator RICE: Did the Southwood facility participate in your voluntary survey?

Mr Williamson: That name is not familiar to me. It is not on my list of accredited—

Ms Munro: Just to clarify, it would only have participated if it was already a registered accredited power station.

Senator RICE: Is it an accredited power station? Though, Mr Williamson, you are indicating that it is not.

Mr Williamson: That name is not on the list that I have of the 28 accredited power stations that can use wood waste.

Senator RICE: If it is not on your list would that mean that it is definitively not?

Mr Williamson: Sometimes facilities are named by multiple names. There is only one accredited power station in Tasmania and that is not the name of it.

CHAIR: You and your colleagues have had a very good run this evening, and we are running late. Perhaps you could just ask one more question and put the rest on notice, the committee would be very grateful.

Senator RICE: Is Ta Ann on your list of accredited power stations?

Mr Williamson: Yes, it is.

Senator RICE: Is that the one Tasmanian one that is accredited?

Mr Williamson: That is an accredited power station in Tasmania—correct. 

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