RET debate drawing to a close as Japan surges forward with space solar

Posted 10th May 2015 by Cassandra House

Australia may finally see some action on the RET this week, with meetings reported to be scheduled between the Opposition and the Abbott Government. Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane had previously stated that the government wanted to slash the current legislated 41,000-gigawatt hour target. This was largely due to the government’s concern that this would exceed the 20 percent target and lead to a price hike in electricity. The Opposition backed a target of 33,500, a figure that was supported by the industry and the Clean Energy Council, resulting in an impasse with the government refusing to move beyond 32,000.

Recent reports state that Ian Macfarlane has now been given authorisation to move up to a possible compromise of 33,000GWh, providing new hope for the negotiations taking place in Friday’s meeting. A resolution to this stand-off will provide stability in the renewable energy sector and encourage investment, growth and more jobs.

A current positive sign in the Australian solar sector is the movement towards investment, with news last month of international company Solar Power Inc. (SPI) gaining an 80% stake in Australian solar retailer SolarJuice. The investment of strong international companies is a sign of strength and progress in the industry and offers further reassurance to the sector. The Victorian government is also focussing on developing the renewable energy sector, with the intention of reducing restrictions on wind farms in the state, provided that a deal can be reached on the RET. The proposed changes, allowing wind farms to be built closer to residential areas, would stimulate development and makes it even more essential that the debate and review surrounding the RET is finalised.

In international news, Japan has recently seen some exciting new developments in solar power. JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency, has been working since 2008 to develop the technology to transmit electricity wirelessly with the goal to “transmit energy from orbiting solar panels by 2030”. In March the agency was successfully able to transmit 10 kW of electricity 500 meters using microwaves; enough electricity to power a set of conventional kitchen appliances. This is a new record, and an important step towards the long-term goal of space solar energy use.

Japan has also recently seen another large investment in solar energy from the partnership of GE Energy Financial Services and Virginia Solar Group. They have announced a joint investment of approximately AUD $82.47 million in a 96.2 megawatt solar farm on Kyushu Island. It is expected to be operational by 2018 and will be the largest solar farm on Kyushu.

Source: AENews, 19 March 2015, “Japan Closer to Harvesting Solar Energy from Space”, accessed 8 May 2015.

CEC, 20 March 2015, “Victoria to be open for business again with wind farm changes”, accessed 8 May 2015.

Energy Matters, 7 April 2015, “300,000 Trina Solar Panels To Power Solar Farm In Japan”, accessed 8 May 2015.

Morris, N, 1 April 2015, “Mergers and Acquisitions Heat Up in Australian Solar Sector”, accessed 8 May 2015.

SBS, 8 May 2015, “Climate change a UN hoax to end democracy, Abbott's chief business advisor says”, accessed 8 May 2015.

Tingle, L. April 2015, “Labor, business pressures government on renewable energy target”, accessed 8 May 2015.

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