Greg Hunt says slashing RET will not break election promise

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Hunt says slashing renewables target to 25,000GWh would not break an election promise – because 41,000GWh was nothing but a “flaw in system”.

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Environment Minister Greg Hunt
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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

Environment Minister Greg Hunt
Environment Minister Greg Hunt

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”.

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20 Comments
  1. Warwick 5 years ago

    Doesn’t seem consistent with what his offsider, Simon Birmingham said at Clean Energy Week last year..”It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.” http://www.senatorbirmingham.com.au/Media-Centre/Speeches/ID/1736/CLEAN-ENERGY-WEEK-CONFERENCE–ADDRESS-24-JULY-2013

    • John P 5 years ago

      And, prior to the election: Abbott – “There will be no change to the RET”.
      That’s pretty clear, which is more than be said for Hunt’s various offerings over the last year.

      • Miles Harding 5 years ago

        aah yes!, but was it a CORE promise?

        It does appear that hatred for this terminally moronic government is ratcheting upwards with each new outrage and torrent of whoppers they tell to justify the original lies.

    • Peter Campbell 5 years ago

      Thank you for that link. It is pretty unequivocal. I have just sent Senator Birmingham an email quoting the relevant section along with: “Dear Sir, I quote your words below. Your party promised to retain the
      41,000GWh RET. To do otherwise would be economic and environmental
      vandalism, for the reasons you stated. The best you could do would be to
      remind the electorate of your promise. Explain that you were misled by
      others in your party and declare that your conscience requires you to
      cross the floor. Otherwise, may Labor, the Greens and PUP save us and
      you from yourselves.”

      • suthnsun 5 years ago

        Bravo Peter C! Let’s be crystal clear.. let’s be Crystal Clear.. they are liars , they lied about almost everything in the lead up to the election.

        • Peter Campbell 5 years ago

          I agree 99%. The 1% is that I suspect many of the Liberal candidates believed the lies told by the inner circle. What some candidates said may have been untrue but I suspect some did not consciously lie having been misled by the leadership as much as the rest of us.
          I don’t know anything about Sen. Birmingham but his full exposition on why the RET would not be changed and should not be changed at the link above was more extensive than it needed to be and utterly unequivocal. If it was a conscious lie by this particular gentleman it was especially brazen.

          • suthnsun 5 years ago

            Yes, good point, I don’t know about many individuals. If any continue to collude then they convict themselves lafter the event perhaps?

          • Peter Campbell 5 years ago

            I agree. The principled position would be for Sen. Birmingham to cite what he said a year ago and cross the floor to oppose any change to the RET.
            Or, he was lying like the rest of them.

          • RobS 5 years ago

            I am not so concerned about whether he knew, a speech like that during an election campaign would have no chance of not being heavily vetted by party and campaign headquarters, by allowing him to go ahead with it they were lying by proxy.

          • Peter Campbell 5 years ago

            Good point. He was lying for the party, whether he knew it or not.

  2. Alen 5 years ago

    Although Abbott will long be remembered as Australia’s key climate vandal, it will be Hunt who will go down in history as the minister responsible for destroying Australia’s iconic great barrier reef and the destruction of the successful renewable industry, quite the legacy he will leave behind.

  3. Matt 5 years ago

    What Greg Hunt calls the RET review’s “20%” option for the large-scale target appears to have come straight from the submission by the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, as quoted in the report. The AIGN being the lobby organisation representing the fossil fuel and energy-intensive company associations.. And for the renewable share of electricity to reach 20% by 2020 will require a demand increase of 19,000 GWh, despite AIGN’s same submission predicting the demand will continue to fall!

    This option has clearly been designed to have a similar effect to that of simply closing the target to new entrants, but still allow the government to spin it as a 20% option and not the post-election backflip it really is, with no certainty for investors. And it would take AEMO’s most optimistic demand scenario being fulfilled for 20% to be realised.

  4. Col 5 years ago

    It is clear that a Govt hell bent on killing of the RE industry wants some sort of pathetic word-smithing and spin to show that they did not break promises. Of course they did and any normal thinking human being would see that for what it is. I can’t figure out why they would kill off A$20bill investment and create thousands of jobs (which will be required when the auto-workers lose their jobs in 2 years time) and still pay billions of $$ to the fossil fuel generators in subsidies. I don’t see this figure coming out in comparison to the “high cost to taxpayer for the RE subsidies. This decision will bankrupt my business and my family and I will bring a class action against the government….what do I have to lose!

    • Peter Campbell 5 years ago

      Asked as a serious question because I really don’t know: What are the prospects for a major class action by all businesses involved in renewable energy, from wind farm operators through to local businesses that maintain service tracks and so on?

      • Giles 5 years ago

        Quite strong. I think legal recourse is already been discussed.

  5. RobS 5 years ago

    Simon Birmingham, LNP Senator for South Australia to the Clean Energy Week Conference July 2013

    “As many of you here today will know, the real driver of investment in renewable energy has been and continues to be the Renewable Energy Target. We have always supported the RET and continue to offer bi-partisan support for this scheme. It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.”

    It WILL be an election promise broken, no doubt about it.

  6. John Silvester 5 years ago

    Dick Warburton claims that his highly publicised views on climate change are irrelevant because the carbon mitigation benefits were not being considered as part of the review.

    So we have a review into a government regulation that expressly ignores consideration of the outcomes the regulation set out to achieve. This values all past and future carbon mitigation at zero.

    Not sure how many government regulations would survive review if their intended outcomes were not taken into consideration.

    Beginning with a carbon mitigation value of zero, it would seem to be easy to show all that money spent on expensive solar and wind was wasted.

    We have our review and what do we find:

    If we keep RET

    * In the short term cost to consumers is small 2 or 3 percent of utility bill
    * In the medium to long term consumers will save money
    * $22bn in cross subsidies will leverage many billions more in clean energy investment
    * A little too successful at displacing fossil fuel generation.
    * Large fossil fuel generators would never have agreed to participate in the RET if they believed for one minute renewables would become cost competitive.
    * Increasing CO2 mitigation.

    If we slash the RET

    * Little or no investment in large scale renewables for maybe a decade
    * Drop in demand for residential and commercial pv systems of 30% or more
    * large number of retrenched workers and closed businesses.
    * increasing CO2 emissions
    * increased cost to consumers

    So the recommendation is get rid of it. WTF.

  7. Rob G 5 years ago

    Another promise from the promise breakers. Is anybody still listening to these clowns.

    • Peter Campbell 5 years ago

      I hope people are listening and understanding. Too often I hear ‘They are all the same’. I hope people come to realise they are not all the same.

  8. Adam Lucas 5 years ago

    What we are seeing is systemic malfeasance by Coalition governments throughout the country. Their attacks on renewable energy and environmental legislation clearly demonstrate they do not and will never accept evidence-based policy around these issues. Clearly, the corruption of Coalition members of parliament has reached an all-tiime low, and it is hard to see how they can become any more servile to the interests of the fossil fuel, mining, agrichem, pharmaceutical and financial industries. Greg Hunt is a weak fool who has allowed himself to become a tool of the same corporate interests that fund the IPA and who pull Abbott’s strings. If any readers of Renew Economy are surprised by this, you clearly weren’t paying enough attention.

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