RET Review Recommendations Garner More Criticism
Yesterday, recommendations from a panel-led review of Australia’s renewable energy target (RET) were released and called for the target to be scaled back dramatically. To no one’s surprise, reaction was swift and critical.
Many renewable energy advocates and government officials viewed the recommendations are the work of a biased, climate skeptic in Dick Warburton and said if Prime Minister Tony Abbott were to scale back the RET, he would betray his campaign promises. A day later, more reaction as poured out from critics and it hasn’t been kind.
“Essentially, this says Australia is closed for business for renewable energy,” Kobad Bhavnagri, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney, said. This sentiment was echoed across the industry.
“If the goal posts keep moving on business, global investors move on to more stable environments,” said Chris Judd, head of offshore turbine supplier Senvion SE’s Australia operations, told Bloomberg. “This will be at the peril of a cleaner economy and environment for Australia.”
Sustainability, Environment, and Conversation Minister Ian Hunter blasted the administration for even ordering the review and tried to paint the Abbott government as being out of touch with the realities of climate change.
“The South Australian Government opposes any move by the anti-science Abbott Government to scale back the RET,” he said. “We are concerned that this Federal Government, which appears to fly against the accepted, worldwide consensus on climate change, will make an ill-considered and ideological decision on this very important issue.”
Climate Council’s Professor Tim Flannery says the findings are motivated by an attempt to support the oil and gas industry, a charge that has been lobbed repeatedly at the Abbott administration.
"I'm not surprised, some of the people who've served in the review panel are notorious for their pro-fossil fuel interests," he told ABC News. "But I am dismayed because that RET has survived five electoral cycles and it's served the country well."
Flannery may not be far off, either, as the Australian Mines and Metals Association, which includes Chevron and Exxon Mobil, praised the review.
“There is a strong argument to scrap the RET altogether,” the group said. “It is vitally important the RET has minimal impact on the rapid development of our nation’s $200 billion LNG sector.”
Abbott has also been very vocal about his support of coal. Michelle Grattan, a professional fellow at the University of Canberra, points to a speech Abbott gave in Texas earlier this year.
“We don’t believe in ostracizing any particular fuel,” he said. “For many decades at least, coal will continue to fuel human progress as an affordable energy source for wealthy and developing countries alike.”
Grattan notes that Abbott now finds himself in a difficult position—and it doesn’t look like it will end well.
Ellen Whinnett, national politics editor for the Herald Sun, argues that a balance must be struck for Abbott to come out of this issue alive. He argued that the second option presented by the panel, to scale back the RET to 20%, is the best, as it offers a compromise in this unfortunate situation.
“There’s no perfect way to make power. Gas is still dirty, although much less so than coal. Wind farms are controversial and divide communities. Hydro requires the damming of rivers. Solar is expensive,” she writes. “Accepting that brown coal is still providing the cheapest and most reliable power supplies doesn’t mean there’s no room for renewable energy supplies. Digging up and burning coal to produce power is, ultimately, unsustainable and bad for the environment. Australia needs a variety of energy sources. That must be balanced with the urgent need to protect jobs—at aluminum smelters, in the Latrobe Valley and in the clean energy industry. Which leads to the conclusion that the compromise—a true 20 per cent—seems a sensible option.”
The next few weeks will be a tumultuous time for the Australian energy sector, as the Abbott government must decide on how it will proceed with the recommendations.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.