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Australian Senate votes to end energy efficiency program


Australia's upper house voted Thursday to repeal the 2006 Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act and thereby end the country's Energy Efficiency Opportunities Program.

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The program required energy-intensive businesses to assess their energy use and identify cost-effective ways to save energy. It was mandatory for companies that used more than 0.5 petajoules/year of energy.

The repeal will save Australian industry A$17.7 million ($16.5 million) annually, the government said Thursday.

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association welcomed the vote.

"The Australian oil and gas industry has long maintained that the EEO imposed a range of unnecessary administrative and compliance costs on participants that did nothing to enhance energy efficiency," APPEA Chief Executive David Byers said.

"Oil and gas companies -- and indeed companies in many other industries -- already have strong business reasons for minimizing their energy use," Byers said.

APPEA the program and others reflected a misunderstanding and underestimate of energy efficiency in the oil and gas industry. The group gave the example of natural gas used to power gas processing plants and LNG export facilities.

"Any gas used as an energy source at the facility cannot be sold to customers," APPEA said. "Therefore, using natural gas to produce energy at the facility has a very direct opportunity cost -- a unit of gas that can be saved through reducing energy use is a unit of gas that can then be sold."

The Australian Senate, which earlier this week repealed a mining tax by 36-33, is also due to vote on disbanding the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

However, coal magnate and independent politician Clive Palmer has said his Palmer United Party senators -- who, together with a few other independents hold the balance of power in the Senate -- will oppose the repeal of AREA and of the country's independent Climate Change Authority.

Closing down both bodies will effectively put an end to the former Labor government's carbon emissions reduction and renewable energy programs and help usher in the current Liberal-National coalition government's direct action plan, which aims to cut the country's CO2 emissions by 5% by 2020.

--James Bourne,
--Edited by Meghan Gordon,