Australia’s renewable energy industry and its supporters are shaping up for a day of action on Friday, to fight the Abbott government’s plans to axe, or neuter, the nation’s Renewable Energy Target.
Thousands of renewable energy workers and supporters are reported to have committed, at short notice (the rally has been organised within a week), to hold “community pickets” outside the offices of Cabinet ministers and their local federal MPs across Australia to demand support for the 41,000GWh by 2020 target – the fate of which will be decided upon in coming days, after the recent tabling of the Warburton RET Review.
Organisers say that, after enduring years of uncertainty under the former Labor and current Coalition governments, the renewables community has been galvanised by the latest round of destructive federal and state policy changes – most particularly, the threat to the RET, which they say places the future of an entire industry in jeopardy.
The result is an event which marks the first time Solar Citizens, the Clean Energy Council, Australian Solar Council, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Australian Wind Alliance have united to protest attacks on renewable jobs, growth and investment.
At the same time, the Australian Solar Council has been targeting marginal seats in Australia – some of which also happen to boast some of the country’s highest uptakes of rooftop solar – with its Save Solar campaign.
And earlier this month – one day after the Australia’s largest solar farm was officially opened south of Canberra – a letter signed by 500 solar businesses representing 3,700 employees was delivered to the Abbott government, calling on it to back jobs and investment in the solar industry by maintaining the RET.
Solar Citizens national director Claire O’Rourke told RenewEconomy on Thursday that the level of commitment shown by the industry and community in response to this week’s call to action has shown they are “prepared to drop everything” to support renewables at a time they consider to be crucial to industry’s future.
“This hasn’t really happened before,” said O’Rourke. “So this really does show we’re at the pointy end of the debate (on renewables) in Australia.”
O’Rourke says that in Sydney, rally-goers picketing Tony Abbott’s Manly office of will later form a convoy and travel to the North Sydney office of Treasurer Joe Hockey, arriving at 1:30pm.
Renewables supporters from rural NSW will attend the rally at the office of Barnaby Joyce, Deputy Leader of The Nationals and MP for New England, in Tamworth.
In Victoria, the rally will be held at the Bentleigh office of Liberal MP and minister for trade and investment, Andrew Robb; in WA at Julie Bishop’s office in Subiaco; in Tasmania, at the Hobart office on Senator Eric Abetz; and in South Australia at the Mount Barker office of Jamie Briggs, the Coalition MP for Mayo.
In Canberra, where Greens leader Christine Milne has today joined clean energy students to urge the other parties not to support Abbott’s attack on the RET, the Rall for Renewables will be held at Senator Zed Seselja’s office.
Developments at each of the rallies will also be live blogged on the Rally for Renewables website as the events unfold tomorrow.
“Australians want more solar not less and there are 2 million homes across the country with solar power and solar hot water on the rooftop – that’s millions of solar voters,” said O’Rourke in a statement released earlier this week.
“Cutting the Target will increase the cost of rooftop solar by up to 50 per cent, putting it out of reach of ordinary Australian households.”
“The Target will create at least 18,000 more jobs in solar and renewables by 2020 if it’s kept in place. Renewable energy provides competition in the electricity market place and that will help keep power prices low – even the Warburton Report had to admit that,” said Kane Thornton from the Clean Energy Council.
“If the government kills the Target it will deliver a windfall to the big power companies over the next 15 years but households will continue to pay more,” said John Grimes CEO of the Australian Solar Council.
“Cutting or scaling back the RET will cost at least 8,000 jobs and threaten the survival of thousands of companies, many of which are small businesses.”
“The Abbott Government said it wanted to create another million homes with rooftop solar but it has now reneged on that promise under pressure from the big power companies,” said Brian England, National Chair of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“The $10 billion invested so far across rural and regional Australia in wind energy will also be put at risk if the Target is cut. These investments help keep farmers on their land and bring much needed jobs to rural communities,” said Andrew Bray, National Coordinator of the Australian Wind Alliance.