TIM FLANNERY: We have a very high reliance on a very polluting, antiquated electricity system.
TIM FLANNERY: We have a very high reliance on a very polluting, antiquated electricity system.

Flannery: Abbott Govt's approach to renewable energy "grim"

"GRIM" is how climate scientist, author and Climate Council member Tim Flannery describes the Abbott Government's approach to climate change and renewable energy.

The outspoken scientist was interviewed ahead of his keynote speech at the Byron Solar Revolution Symposium this Saturday afternoon.

While everyday Aussies had embraced rooftop solar at an unprecedented rate, at a Federal level the commitment to big projects was in reverse, Professor Flannery said.

"We're doing very badly. We've been left way, way behind. Particularly in terms of clean energy technology," he said.

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Prof Flannery said as a result of the Federal Government's "backward" stance on the Renewable Energy Target the nation had lost out on $1.8 billion in foreign investment into large-scale renewable projects in 2014 alone.

"At current settings, things are looking pretty grim," he said.

"We have a very high reliance on a very polluting, antiquated electricity system. Some of our coal-fired stations are the most polluting in the developed world."

But amid all this negativity, Byron Shire Council has pledged to become a "zero emissions" council by 2020, while Lismore City Council has made a similar commitment.

Plans are afoot to launch a community-owned regional electricity retailer, and at least two other medium-sized renewable projects are planned in Lismore and Mullumbimby.

Prof Flannery said it was a "no-brainer" that regional communities were keen on renewable energy, because they could keep their profits local instead of funding "head offices" in the capitals.

And he said solar technology was making huge strides to support the move.

"We're just seeing now the new storage units coming on to the Australian market at a price most people can afford," he said.

Australia should be taking advantage of its massive solar resource, Prof Flannery said, pointing out the world's solar technology leader was Germany, but even its best solar region was worse than our worst - in south-west Tasmania.