Networks push for renewable energy target to be dumped

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The main lobby representing the major electricity networks in Australia, the Energy Networks Association, is calling for the renewable energy target to be dumped and replaced with a “low emissions target” that would include gas-fired generation.

The ENA, which represents state-owned networks in NSW, Queensland, WA, and Tasmania, along with privately owned networks in Victoria and South Australia, says it has commissioned modelling from consulting firm Jacobs that shows that residential electricity bills will be $234 a year lower if gas was included in a “low emissions target” that included gas as well as wind and solar and other renewables.

“Jacobs analysis shows a typical residential electricity bill in 2030 would be lower under a 45 per cent (emissions reduction) target scenario with a Level Playing Field, than under the smaller 26-28% abatement target with our current, inefficient policy mix,” it says.

Details of the analysis, and how it came to such a conclusion, have not been released.

The Australian Solar Council said in response that it was clear that the big power companies, having failed to have the RET abolished under the Abbott government, are again trying to create investment uncertainty.

“We all know the damage the big power companies, the vested interests and the Abbott government did to the solar and renewables industry. We will not let that happen again,” ASC chief executive John Grimes said.

The ENA report comes as investment in large-scale renewable energy remains at a standstill, as major retailers still refuse to sign long-term off-take agreements. The only investment occurring is that driven by schemes such as the ACT’s reverse auction program and some state-based initiatives.

Analysis from UBS earlier this week showed that the retailers had little incentive to invest in large-scale renewable, despite the target, because more renewable energy would dampen earnings from their coal and gas-fired generators, and there was no penalty for failing to meet their targets. Instead, the so-called “penalty price” was passed on to consumers, with the revenue going to government.


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