(EnergyAsia, August 31, Monday) — The Australian government should increase its focus on natural gas in future deliberations on renewable energy target (RET) legislation, said two associations linked to the gas industry.

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) and the Australian Pipeline Industry Association (APIA) said the nation’s leaders should recognise natural gas as a low emissions fuel source and a complement to renewable energy sources.

Natural gas produces 50-70% less emissions than does coal when used in power generation and provides a perfect complement to renewable energy sources.

Australia’s RET as it stands will, however, slow the potential future growth of natural gas fired power generation by mandating a share of the market for specific, and more expensive, sources of power generation.

“While the proposal to include, in an appropriately limited way, coal mine waste gas provides some certainly to that industry, a broader recognition of the role of natural gas would enhance the effectiveness of the RET,” said APPEA chief executive, Belinda Robinson.

APIA chief edecutive Cheryl Cartwright said renegotiation of the RET legislation was an opportunity to acknowledge the benefits of natural gas.

She said: “The RET legislation is an opportunity for the government and opposition to demonstrate a commitment to the natural gas industry by including encouragement for gas-fired power generation as a back-up fuel for  intermittent energy from renewable sources.”

Ms Robinson said that one of the common criticisms of existing renewable energy is that it cannot provide base load electricity and therefore requires support from gas fired generators.  

She said: “It would be a sensible move by the government to provide policy and/or financial support for natural gas power generation as the obvious back-up fuel for energy generated by renewable sources.”