The political rhetoric around clean energy in Australia has fallen so low that even success is deemed a failure.
The fact that the 41,000GWh target could lead to 26 per cent of electricity demand being met by renewable energy – when the original intention was only for “at least” 20 per cent – is being described as “inadvertent” and a “flaw” in the system by the Abbott government.
What’s more, Environment Minister Greg Hunt says slashing the renewable energy target to 25,000GWH from around 41,000GWh will not amount to a broken election promise, because it will represent a “real” 20 per cent.
In Hunt’s strongest indication that it has never been the Coalition’s intention to support the 41,000GWh target – despite feigning to do so – Hunt said the 41,000GWh target would, through a “flaw in the system” c
In an interview with Radio 3AW on Friday, it was put to Hunt that supporting the recommendation of the RET Review panel to cut the target to 25,000GWH from around 41,000GWh would amount to a broken election promise – because the Coalition had always proclaimed that it supported a 20 per cent target.
“That’s completely false,” Hunt said. “Our promise was – and our policy was that we supported 20 per cent and we’d have a review. This report sets out two main options. One is 15 per cent and the other one is 20 per cent. Precisely in line with the long-term bipartisan commitment.”
Of course, that is not true. The RET legislation – supported by both major parties made very clear it was for a minimum 20 per cent, and it was at the insistence of the incumbent utilities that this was defined as a fixed target of 41,000GWh. It was this figure that became bipartisan policy.
Hunt and other senior colleagues danced around this during the election campaign, mentioning only the “20 per cent” target as an aspiration and refusing to be drawn on the 41,000GWh target. The only person to be drawn into the 41,000GWh figure was parliamentary secretary Simon Birmingham. He said that the Coalition supported this, but it was with the caveat that it should be reviewed.
And, to be clear, the “15 per cent” he refers too is the option where the scheme is effectively closed off to new entrants. The “20 per cent” is where the target build for the next 6 years is slashed by 60 per cent. The renewable energy industry says either scenario is devastating – but it seems certain now that this is what the Abbott government intends, and has always intended to do.
Hunt, for instance, now describes meeting the cost of the RET as involving “massive penalties”, which as we pointed on Friday was an about face on his previous rhetoric, and if it occurs is merely the product of the policy uncertainty his own government has created. He has labelled those who oppose new coal fire power stations as being “against electricity”.