Aug 28, 2014

Panel Recommends Cutting Renewable Energy Target in Australia

Energy Policy
3 min
A panel-led review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target has concluded the goal should be reduced or scrapped altogether. The panel pr...

A panel-led review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target has concluded the goal should be reduced or scrapped altogether.

The panel presented two options to accomplish this. They recommended closing out further investments, which would reduce the target from 27% down to around 15%. Under the second option, the target would be set at 20% and reviewed each year and adjusted for demand.

Predictably, the industry is outraged.

Kane Thornton, acting chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, said that the proposals would “shut down the future of the industry.”

Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler called the document political and claimed it was written by “climate change deniers.”

Greens Leader Christine Milne took to the airwaves to share her disgust with the administration.

“This is extraordinary,” she said. “A prime minister that would proactively destroy jobs, proactively stop investment, threaten existing industries—we’ve already had Pacific Hydro, Infigen, any number of industries, Hydro Tasmania—out saying this will be devastating. It will cost us billions. It will lose thousands of jobs across Australia. And yet, the Prime Minister wants to do that.”

While this is only a panel recommendation, Milne believes Prime Minister Tony Abbott is motivated by his desire to prop up the coal industry.

“This is the most disgraceful, anti-the future, pro-greenhouse driving policy you could ever imagine,” she said.

John Grimes, Chief Executive for the Australian Solar Council, also expressed his extreme distaste with the review.

“Today is a dark day indeed for the solar industry in Australia,” he said. “This report authored, shepherded through by the Prime Minister represents the end of the solar industry in Australia today as we know it. 18,000 solar workers go to bed tonight not knowing if they have a job at Christmastime and if this report is implemented, 8,000 solar workers will lose their jobs overnight.”

Grimes called the report process a “sham” and said this marked the end of large and small scale renewable projects in Australia.

The government still has to review the report and make its final decisions, and according to Environment Minister Greg Hunt, they’re taking the process very seriously.

“We have a long-term commitment to renewable energy in Australia, but it’s about finding balance,” Hunt said. “What was intended to be a 20 percent renewable energy target, because of the collapse in some areas of manufacturing, is now inadvertently by law heading toward being 26 percent, and that could come with some very high penalties.”

Hunt is said to favor the 20% second option, as he views it at a sort of compromise. It’s reported, however, the Prime Minister Abbott favors the more drastic option.

The panel was led by reported climate change-denier Dick Warburton and has garnered criticism from the outset.

“The renewable-energy target is popular,” Australian Conservation Foundation spokeswoman Victoria McKenzie-McHarg said in a statement. “It is supporting the growth of an exciting new industry, and it is cutting pollution—it should be maintained.”

It remains to be seen in the coming weeks which course of action, if any, the government takes. 

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