Coalition hints at openness to compromise on Renewable Energy Target: Financial Review

Officials in the Coalition have hinted that the government is unlikely to seek to eliminate Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) and that a compromise with the Opposition in which the RET is retained but weakened is the more likely outcome, according to the Australian Financial Review.

The Financial Review says that at least two key Liberal MPs–Industry Minister Ian McFarlane and Education Minister Christopher Pyne–made comments at separate events indicating a willingness for the Coalition to reach a deal with Labour about the fate of the RET, which is now the primary incentive mechanism for renewable energy sources like wind and solar power in Australia.

Mr Pyne told the Financial Review that the dismantling of the RET was not a foregone conclusion, and that “no one should assume the RET will be abolished”. Mr McFarlane, meanwhile, acknowledged that uncertainty about the future of the scheme is already having a detrimental impact on the renewables industry. Without a bipartisan deal, he said that “there will be zero stability”, which would result in “zero investment”.

The Financial Review also notes that Coalition senators and MPs from Tasmania do not wish to see the RET eliminated, citing concerns about a potential impact on already low employment in the state, which is home to a number of large wind farms.

The comments of the Coalition MPs would seem to corroborate the view espoused by Climate Spectator’s Tristan Edis, among others, that the government’s request that the RET Review panel further investigate a ‘no RET’ scenario was political posturing.

Without bipartisan support–particularly in the fractious senate–no changes to the RET legislation itself will be possible. A number of other significant changes may nevertheless be made by the government unilaterally, including the effective closure of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), which provides support for solar systems under 100kW and applies to virtually all residential and small commercial systems. A compromise on the RET could bring certainty to the large-scale renewables sector, which is in limbo for as long as the future of the RET remains unsettled.

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