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Proposals to undermine GreenPower gains

Posted in Policies by Kate Archdeacon on August 11th, 2009

Source: GreenRazor, the GreenPages Newsletter

Sumo Seesaw_Martin Whitmore
Image: Martin Whitmore via flickr

Today, almost one million households and businesses have voluntarily signed up to GreenPower, and Australia’s GreenPower scheme is considered one of the most successful voluntary programs in the world.

But if you thought buying GreenPower was doing your part to reduce overall emissions in the atmosphere – think again. Questions are being raised as to how much this united effort is going to affect overall emissions reductions in the country.

According to the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), Choice, Total Environment Centre and other industry groups, voluntary household emissions reductions through GreenPower is letting polluters pollute more.

“Australians who have been paying extra to purchase clean electricity are being denied the opportunity to have their individual efforts count, under the government’s proposed emission trading scheme,” says Damien Moyse, Energy Policy Manager for the ATA.

Due to a design flaw in the federal government’s scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, households and businesses who purchase GreenPower will not be included in emission reductions calculations for Australia for at least five years. Instead their reduction purchases are counted towards the required emissions reductions of industry.

This week, the ACCC has cracked the whip on GreenPower marketing by electricity retail companies. GreenPower has issued an edict to change marketing terms commonly associated with the GreenPower purchases.

Specifically, “GreenPower, a simple switch for you, significant results for our environment,” becomes, “GreenPower, a simple switch for you, renewable energy for our future.”

Meanwhile, “GreenPower – you have the power to make a real difference” becomes “GreenPower – you have the power to choose.”

The changes were demanded in response to consumer group Choice, and other environmental stakeholders who raised concerns about consumer perception of the impact of their GreenPower purchase and how it relates to emissions in Australia.

GreenPower retailers agree. “There’s no point having a scheme like GreenPower under a mandatory emissions target if it technically frees up someone else to emit more,” notes Jackgreen CEO, Andrew Randall. “Consumers need to get what they are paying for – if they are paying extra to reduce emissions, then it obviously needs to contribute to an overall reduction in emissions.”

The Federal Government has already suffered backlash from similar outcries over its proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. A few months back, consumers were made aware of how their Renewable Energy Certificates from solar power and solar hot water installation was “freeing up permits” for polluters to pollute more.

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