The RET standoff continues

Posted 10th April 2015 by Stephanie Stefanovic

Labor has agreed to compromise on the Renewable Energy Target, but the Abbott Government refuses to budge. It has been two weeks since the Clean Energy Council (CEC) and major industry bodies wrote an open letter urging Australia's politicians to resolve the Renewable Energy Target (RET) crisis. In this letter, the CEC suggested a target of 33,500GWh by 2020 instead of the current target of 41,000GWh. This letter has finally been properly addressed, with Labor agreeing to the suggested target. The Abbott Government however, refuses to come to a compromise.

Previously, the Labor Party had refused to accept anything lower than the mid-to-high 30's. Clearly, they realised that the RET crisis would never be resolved without compromise on both sides of government. The Prime Minister however, remains opposed to the 33,500GWh target. Tony Abbott has acknowledged that the matter must be resolved, yet continues to support the views of Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane, who refuses to budge beyond 32,000GWh.

The Minister is of the belief that anything higher than 32,000GWh would threaten the viability of the scheme in future. "Our current position is our final position," said MacFarlane. "We started at 26,000 gigawatt-hours. The renewable energy target is now as high as we can possibly put it without putting in jeopardy the stability of the scheme".

Furthermore, Tony Abbott has emphasised the fact that both parties agreed on a target of 20 per cent of electricity production by 2020, and that with the declining demand for power, a 33,500GWh target would amount to over 23 per cent by 2020. However, sources dictate that Australia's RET was never legislated as a percentage, and has in fact always been a specified gigawatt-hour figure that just happened to amount to 20 per cent when it originated.

Predictably, Abbott has stated that Labor will need to compromise even further if they wish to end the standoff. "This is not the latest offer, this is the first offer and it is good that finally the opposition in the Federal Parliament have actually come up with a position," Mr Abbott said. "The position of this government is that we want to get power prices down and we want to protect jobs. That's what we want to do”.

In the words of Labor's environment spokesperson Mark Butler, "He says he wants to protect jobs – but hundreds of jobs have already been lost because of [his] determination to destroy the renewable energy sector … The only conclusion from Tony Abbott's inaction on this matter is that he's happy to see the renewable energy industry, and billions of dollars in investment it attracts and thousands of jobs it creates, go overseas”.

Source: Cox, L 2015, '“This is Their First Offer”: Tony Abbott puts pressure back on Labor over renewable energy target', Sydney Morning Herald, 9 April, viewed 10 April 2015.

Tingle, L 2015, 'Labor, Business Pressures Government on Renewable Energy Target', Australian Financial Review, 7 April, viewed 10 April 2015.

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