The Prime Minister’s office looks set to disregard the key recommendations handed to the government by the Renewable Energy Target Review panel last month, according to the Australian Financial Review, with one source commenting that the panel’s report was “only ever a starting point” for deliberations over the future of the scheme.
Unnamed sources say that ministers have expressed the intention to pursue avenues outside of the panel’s main recommendations which, if implemented, would have resulted in either dramatic cuts to the RET or its complete dismantlement. Either of these moves would have devastated Australia’s renewable energy industry, which is already ailing badly due to uncertainty over the future of the scheme.
The RET is the most important incentive mechanism for renewable energy in the country, providing up-front for small-scale renewables (under 100kW) like rooftop solar and ongoing support for large-scale renewables projects like wind and solar farms through to 2030.
Coming together through advocacy groups like Solar Citizens, the number of people expressing support for Australia’s renewable energy industry has grown and become increasingly vocal since the review of the target got underway earlier this year, culminating in a massive, nation-wide ‘Rally for Renewables‘ which took place towards the end of September.
Other political events are ongoing, such as the Australian Solar Council’s ‘Save our Solar‘ campaign, which targets Members of Parliament whose seats are held only by slim electoral margins. Most Australians have been found to be in support of the RET in its current form (or stronger).
Federal political support for the RET appears to reflect the realities on the ground, with Labor, the Greens, Palmer United, and Motoring Enthusiasts parties all firmly behind the target, virtually ensuring that no changes will be passed through Parliament.
Apparently cornered, the Coalition has recently signaled openness to negotiate with the Labor about the scheme, but Labor looks prepared to bar any approach that would result in its reduction, calling for the government to reject the Warburton Review–which is widely thought to be biased against renewables–before any compromises can be made.
Nevertheless, Labor has also hinted that it may be willing to carve out exemptions for the aluminium smelting sector as part of a compromise that would leave the scheme mostly intact. This compromise could be mean either a slightly reduced 2020 renewables target or an increase in electricity prices for consumers.
© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
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