Abbott Govt stands firm on plan to slash big renewables target

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Abbott government dices numbers on renewables target, but still wants to cut allocation to wind energy and big solar by 40%, even if it will leave rooftop solar untouched.

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The Abbott government says it remains determined to slash the size of the renewable energy target, insisting it wants to cut the target by nearly 40 per cent, despite a rejection of the offer by Labor more than a week ago.

As Opposition leader Bill Shorten called a meeting of unions, industry, and renewable energy leaders on Monday, there was no sign that the deadlock that has brought the industry to a halt for the last two years could be resolved.

The Abbott government issued a statement saying that its position is unmoved from that dismissed by Labor. Industry minister Ian Macfarlane and environment minister Greg Hunt confirmed they want the large scale target cut from 41,000GWh to 31,000GWh. Given that 16,000GWh has already been built, this cuts the task for the remaining five years by around 40 per cent.

The Abbott government is dressing this new target up by adding back into the target the expected deployment of rooftop solar. This equates to around 14,000GWh, bringing the target back to 45,000GWh. As RenewEconomy foreshadowed in late February, the government is arguing that there is effectively no change.

However, the small scale target was separated from the large scale target several years ago, and left uncapped. Far from being a “doubling” of renewable energy as claimed by environment minister Greg Hunt, it is effectively a massive cut to the big target.

The continuing deadlock came as news emerged that Pacific Hydro, one of the biggest developers of renewable energy in Australia, has put its development pipeline on hold indefinitely and is cutting its staff by 25 per cent.

Shorten said on Sunday that it was important to reach a deal before Easter, for the sake of the aluminium industry as much as the clean energy industry.

His meeting was designed to form a strategy to achieve that, and keep the target above Labor’s bottom line of 35,000000GWh.

Indeed, Hunt said that Shorten was under pressure to meet the government’s claim, but those attending the meeting said that Labor received no mandate for lowering its offer below 35,000GWh, a level that many in the clean energy industry say will effectively gut the industry. That leaves the two main parties no closer to a solution, and with some doubt about whether the Coalition – given its appointment of the Warburton review and its extensive delays – is serious about sealing a deal.

Indeed, Hunt said that the Coalition had already gone “two-thirds” of the way towards the Labor position, but that is only true if you accept that its original stance was to kill the RET altogether, which it may well have been. At least, that was one of the main recommendations of the RET Review.

Amusingly, the Labor team told the 17 industry groups at the meeting that negotiating with the Coalition on the RET was like “wrestling with smoke”. Many simply believe there is no interest of a compromise on behalf of the government because of the benefits a standstill in renewables brings to the coal industry.

One positive outcome from the Hunt/Macfarlane press release was that it confirmed there would be no changes to small scale solar, and if a deal is agreed, an end to the 2-year review cycle.

Shorten held a media briefing following the meeting, but no questions about the RET were asked by the assembled Canberra journalists, typically engrossed in the minutae of Canberra politicking, and Chris Pyne’s eyebrows.

The Greens, however, said there was no need to cut the target, noting that the future of energy is in renewables as are jobs.

“The RET is not broken; the old model of energy generation is broken, but the Liberals are intent on propping it up as long as possible,” said Greens leader Senator Christine Milne.

“Labor must not cave in to the government. We need to stick with 41,000 gigawatt hours and the government will back down,” she said.

“They backed down on Medicare co-payments, they’re going to be defeated on university deregulation, and we should defeat them in their attack on renewable energy.

“The Abbott government’s attack on the RET is about securing a sustainable future for their mates in the fossil fuel sector, no one else.”

 

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13 Comments
  1. Robert Johnston 5 years ago

    I wonder if MacDonald and Hunt have run this past their backbench and Joe Hockey – this will certainly result in 100% of the LRET being wind!

  2. Rob G 5 years ago

    Australians are very familiar with this governments lying and bending the truth to suit their purposes. Today we had Hockey claiming his Super idea for housing was originally Keating’s idea!? Huh? Here, in this story we have have Hunt and MacFarlane mudding the waters with the small RET numbers. It’s how they roll.

  3. disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

    A defeat on the RET, could be a real nail in the coffin for Abbott, his coal bosses want another win.
    Shorten is paying the renewable sector lip service, because jobs in energy intensive aluminum, means still using polluting coal and mainly because his mate Jay Weatherill, over in SA, is looking to a nuclear powered future, all the stars are aligning, so soon makes this conversation moot.

    • Chris Fraser 5 years ago

      d3, what things is Weatherill saying ? Does he pre-empt the commission by wanting civil nukes for centralised energy ?

      • disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

        It looks that way and the Admiral in charge, can tell is all for it.
        If Playford and Northern close that leaves a shortfall of 760MW, in SA.
        With Roxby expanding as well, this would leave a shortfall that might be filled with a couple of 1GW reactor sites and reprocessing facilities.

        I think they may try to use Gen IV waste eaters to convert waste into near pure energy and much lesser amounts of short lived waste.

        So there’s a few factors, which would culminate in profits being made here by this waste, coming back here.

        • Alastair Leith 5 years ago

          I don’t like his chances of getting nuclear power plants up and winning any future elections. He might be testing the waters but surely a waste radioactive material repository is where this is headed? Initially taking from France as is required then opening the market would be their desire.

          • disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

            Be dumb in the long term, to leave dangerous, but useful high level waste stored for a millenia and not want to convert into energy and smaller amounts of short lived waste, especially when we have a climate issue and coal powered units still belching out.
            The energy available in this some of this so called ‘waste’ is immense.

          • Alastair Leith 5 years ago

            Do you have a price and capacity on one of these reprocessing reactors/plants? Can you quantify “immense”? My understanding is that France is reprocessing the waste before it’s shipped to Australia to reduce volume of material and associated gamma radiation. Are you talking about further reprocessing or just extraction of more energy?

          • disqus_3PLIicDhUu 5 years ago

            It would be further reprocessing of the waste, there’s still immense energy in it and future reprocessing of high level waste shipped here, something must be done about the stockpiles of high and medium level, long lived waste, around the world, a lot of which, the raw material, originated here, why not arrange for further reprocessing to use in Gen IV reactors, when available and also, at some stage, admit back waste that has not been through reprocessing.

  4. Leigh Ryan 5 years ago

    Simple answer the Greens and ALP must block all legislation until the Government agrees to 41,000 Gwh, if that means the Government cannot govern, then they can call an election for a mandate.

    • Alastair Leith 5 years ago

      Problem is even if ALP + Greens block now and win lower and upper houses at the next federal election, the confidence in Australia’s RE market for utility scale developers has been shattered. They needed to know Libs will not sabotage over the lifetime of projects ~30 years so they can attract financing. Hence the importance of bi-partisanship on the RET. In the past and in the future. We can only hope the libs are so scared by this hostility towards RE at the next election that a new leader (Turnbull) cleans house, the Howard era fossils all retire and their’s a new consensus in their party on the importance of clean energy. Hard to imagine with IPA money & influence being what it is.

      Howard was prepared to find something like middle-ground on many issues including RE to ensure his popularity. Abbott is all about the importation of Tea Party style ideological extremism. His sole aim seems to be some kind of culture war version of a Mutually Assured Destruction thermonuclear war with anything remotely progressive and anybody interested in saving what’s left of what is an increasingly damaged climate.

      Financing for RE is booming now internationally and Australia is missing out thanks to nefarious influence of FFs via the IPA over Abbott and that lousy excuse for an Environment Minister, Greg Hunt. Election can’t come soon enough.

  5. neroden 5 years ago

    The small-scale solar industry is quite capable of replacing the power grid in all rural areas, and will probably do so very quickly, whether it’s legal to or not! Once the rural areas have dropped the grid, the urban areas will follow very quickly.

    Thankfully, despite Abbott’s attempts to prop up the dying coal industry, he seems not to have noticed that small-scale solar is a big deal. Our fossil-fuel industries in the US have noticed and are basically trying to tax it out of existence.

  6. John Silvester 5 years ago

    I wish Journalists, Politicians, Industry Representatives and Renewable Energy Advocates would stop referring to the Warburton Report as the RET Review. The RET legislation clearly sets out when the review was to be completed and by whom.

    The RET Review was released in December last year. The RET Review recommendations were keep the RET as it is or push the 41,000 GWh target back a few years.

    To lend any credibility to that selfserving, government sponsored report, based on selfserving assumptions, by referring to the Warburton Report as the RET Review, is just plain wrong.

    Anyone referring to the Warburton Report should be reminded that the government has misrepresented this report as being the RET Review and is another example of this government misinforming the Australian people.

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