Australia might be half way down the road to paring back its 2020 renewable energy target, but that’s not the way the rest of the world is headed, according to a new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency on Thursday.
On the same day that Tony Abbott described Australia’s RET as “not the right way forward,” the IRENA report has described renewable energy targets as a “defining feature” of the global energy landscape, with 164 countries adopting at least one type on RET, up from just 43 countries in 2005 – a fourfold increase.
The report, Renewable Energy Target Setting, launched on the side lines of IRENA’s ninth Council meeting, finds that developing and emerging economies are leading the adoption of renewables targets, accounting for 131 of the 164 countries to have adopted them.
Two more countries, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, have set renewable energy targets at the sub-national level.
And while the majority of countries focus on the electricity sector – 150 countries have renewable electricity targets – commitments in other sectors are also on the rise, the report says.
The number of countries setting targets for the heating/cooling sector increased from two countries in 2005 to 47 today. Similarly, renewable transport targets have more than doubled from 27 countries in 2005 to 59 today.
“Renewable energy targets have emerged as a popular mechanism to set national and regional economies on the path towards a more secure and sustainable energy future,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.
“They provide an important signal to the industry and can help to align stakeholders by creating a clearer, common vision for the development of the energy sector.
“Governments are increasingly adopting renewable energy targets to meet multiple objectives including energy security, environmental sustainability and socio-economic benefits,” Amin added.
“The rapid growth of targets is just one more signal of the world’s ongoing shift towards renewable energy and away from fossible fuels.”
Meanwhile, in Australia, legislation to cut the federal RET from 41,000GWh by 2020 to 33,000GWh is awaiting passage though the Senate – probably some time next week – having passed the House of Reps without debate (see box 16 in the IRENA report, and below).
And while the Coalition government has claimed that this will not amount to a reduction of the original 20 per cent target, but an increase to 25 per cent by 2020, that position has been directly contradicted by comments from the Prime Minister on Thursday.
In an interview with Radio 2GB’s Alan Jones on Thursday, Abbott said Australia’s RET had been “put in place in the late days of the Howard government” and “knowing what we know now I don’t think we would have done things this way, but at the time we thought it was the right way forward.”
As for the 33,000GWh RET amendment, the PM declared that for what it is: as a “capital R” Reduction.
“What we are managing to do through this admittedly imperfect deal with the Senate is to reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow us to do,” he said.
For interest’s sake, here’s what the IRENA report had to say about Australia’s RET debacle:
“In conclusion, a target framed as a percentage of final electricity demand ensures that the target grows or shrinks as a function of actual energy demand. While this may introduce more uncertainty about the total actual output required to achieve the target, it also
has the advantage of keeping up with potentially rapid demand growth.
“However, as the case of Australia demonstrates, while setting the target in absolute terms is more likely to reduce uncertainty for market participants, it also shows the shortcomings of absolute targets in the face of hard-to-predict electricity demand. One way to resolve this tension is to include a clause that establishes the renewable energy target in both absolute and percentage-based terms, and states that the requirement is based on whichever of the two is greater (or smaller, as the case may be).”