The political debate over Australia’s renewable energy target will now move to the Senate, after legislation paring back the target from 41,000Gwh by 2020 to 33,000GWh was passed through parliament’s lower house.
The bill passed through the House of Representatives on Tuesday night without debate, which was gagged by the Abbott government after some backbench MPs voiced concerns about the target.
Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt, who is pro-nuclear energy, had threatened on Tuesday to cross the floor and vote against the bill, arguing it would push up power prices for “those who can least afford it” while giving environmentalists a “warm, fuzzy feeling”.
Pitt was was not formally counted in the opposition votes, however, which only included independents Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie.
But not everyone was feeling warm and fuzzy about the quick passage of the legislation, which not only slashes the amount of renewable energy that will be built by 2020 by more than one-third, but includes the burning of native wood waste.
Opposition climate spokesman, Mark Butler said that while Labor welcomed the agreement and the passage of the legislation on Monday night, it didn’t do so with any sense of joy.
“Instead, we do so with a sense of relief that we’ve been able to bring an industry – a critically important industry for Australia’s future – back from the brink of collapse,” Butler said.
“And it’s important to remember the only reason the industry was in this position is because last year the Prime Minister decided to walk away from yet another election promise, this being to support the existing Renewable Energy Target and launch a reckless attack on this industry.”
Federal Labor yesterday introduced an amendment to the RET bill to have the burning of native wood waste for energy excluded from the legislation, for the reason that it was neither clean nor renewable.
“When in Government, Labor opposed its inclusion in the legislation and we oppose it in Opposition,” Butler said in a statement.
Excluding it from the target, said, provided for large-scale solar and wind farms to be built to achieve the target of 25 per cent of Australia’s energy generation from renewable sources by 2020.
Outside Parliament, Butler told reporters Labor would continue to prosecute the wood waste argument “very forcefully”, and would move their amendment in the Senate.
He said Labor looked forward to the support of the crossbench, “to ensure the renewable energy scheme remains a scheme for clean and genuinely renewable energy rather than burning of native forests.”