The “political barnacle” that Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) has become should be removed, according to former Liberal leader Dr. John Hewson.
The original target saw the country aim to generate 20% of energy, equivalent to 41,000 GW, from renewable sources by the year 2030. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his administration, however, intend to slash this target to only 27,000 GW.
Hewson, who also happens to be an economist, has said the original target needs to be maintained. Abbott had told a meeting of a joint coalition party recently that he planned to scrape off “one or two barnacles” prior to Christmas break. Hewson countered this by arguing “if you’re talking about barnacles, get rid of this one,” meaning the Government’s predilection for delaying the implementation of RET.
Renewable industry predicts RET cuts will severely impact jobs
Hewson added that the Government is “off the pace” on worldwide developments in climate change. Responding to Hewson, Abbott’s Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane said that the renewable industry faces uncertainty since the RET has not operated the way it was originally intended to, going so far as to state that “many” in the industry have “privately acknowledged” the original target is not sustainable or achievable.
According to Kane Thorton of the Clean Energy Council, investments in renewable energy companies have been stifled, with jobs in the tens of thousands already in jeopardy. Statistically, an increase of $1 trillion in renewable sources is required from worldwide investment in order to meet international targets by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Abbott Government claims RET not sustainable or achievable
Macfarlane, on the other hand, said that “uncertainty has existed” in the renewable industry and the Government “wants to fix the problems” that have hindered investments under the existing RET terms. According to Macfarlane, this will “ensure” that the renewable industry can be sustained as part of the Government’s energy mix.
New projects have been shelved until the RET situation is resolved, according to several reports from companies within the renewable industry. While already 13 wind farms are operational in Victoria, there are 19 more awaiting the decision on RET. Nearly all wind farms in Victoria have halted operations because of the uncertainty over the government’s RET review.
Warburton, head of RET review board, accused of being “Climate Denier”
Rumours have it that Abbott is all set to axe the RET which has propped up driven investment. Around 170 jobs in Portland alone may possibly be scrapped if the RET reviews turn out to be unfavourable for the renewable industry. Hewson’s stinging attack on the Prime Minister included chiding Dick Warbuton who heads the RET review board and calling him a “climate denier.”
The choice of Warburton, who was a former officer of Caltex, as chairman of the RET review board has already been questioned by renewable energy advocates like Hewson. The Government is expected to release the RET board’s findings on whether or not it will keep the 20% target or water it down, a move that, according to Hewson, will put the world at risk for a climate crisis.