Federal climate spokesman, Mark Butler, has flagged there could be a swift resolution to the latest digression in Renewable Energy Target talks, caused by the Abbott government’s last-minute addition of yet another review of the scheme in just seven months.
Butler told the Solar 2015 conference in Melbourne on Wednesday that an agreement on a much reduced target of 33,000GWh by 2020 would be locked in for the renewables industry as soon as the Coalition dropped its new review clause, which he hoped it would do “in coming days.”
“There will be no deal without the removal of reviews,” Butler said. “Asking for another review on the RET in just seven months goes to the heart of investor confidence.” He suggested a deal could be done within days, or at least by the end of June.
But elsewhere the signs are not good. Industry minister Ian Macfarlane – having said repeatedly that 2-year reviews killed certainty – is now saying that they are essential to monitor the cost of the scheme, and its ability to meet its reduced target.
In emails to constituents complaining about the government backflip, Macfarlane has written:
“The biennial review of the RET was introduced by the previous Labor Government to ensure the efficient, effective and sustainable operation of the RET and under Labor’s legislation is place until 2020. The agreement will require $28 billion in subsidies through the RET to be paid by Australian households and businesses over the next 15 years to the renewable industry sector in Australia. As well, the amount of renewable energy generation capacity that needs to be built in the next five years under this ambitious target for the RET will be greater than the amount built over the last 15 years of the RET.
“This will be a challenge for the renewable energy industry and if the industry is unable to achieve this target, the RET will go into default and the cost of credits will rises steeply consequentially bringing about a substantial rise in electricity prices.
“On that basis, it is more than reasonable for the Government has also proposed a continuation of the biennial review of the Renewable Energy Target to ensure households are not being hit with higher electricity prices if the industry fails to meet the target.”
The government is also facing a mutiny from at least a small group of senators who object to any deal in the Senate, meaning that any deal with labor could be derailed in the upper house if some cross the floor.
ABC Online reports that two unnamed MPs have threatened to cross the floor on the issue, and there is talk that similar moves could take place in the Senate. Many Coalition MPs oppose wind energy.
Butler, meanwhile, said that while Labor also opposed the inclusion of wood waste burning in the target, which he said was not justified, it was not a “deal breaker”.
Butler also repeated recent comments to the effect that, despite the severe cut to the 41,000GWh target, a 33,000GWh figure – agreed to by Labor and the Abbott government and backed by the Clean Energy Council – would still deliver Australia installed renewables capacity “significantly ahead” of the 20 per cent target, by 2020.
But, perhaps taking into account the makeup of his audience, he conceded that for large-scale solar, it was not an ideal outcome, with much of the capacity likely to be taken up by the end of the decade, around about the time many big solar PV projects would be likely to be ready to go.
With this in mind, he said, Labor – if elected at the next election – would look to top up the 2020 target.