RET deadlock nearly over

The Federal Government and Labor Party have agreed on a renewable energy target of 33,000 gigawatt hours.

The Federal Government and Labor Party have agreed on a renewable energy target of 33,000 gigawatt hours.

By Courtney Pearson

May 11, 2015

FOLLOWING months of negotiation, the Federal Government and Opposition have reached a revised renewable energy target (RET) of 33,000 gigawatt hours.

The political stand-off was resolved as both parties agreed to source about 23.5 per cent of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Labor originally championed a target of 33,500GWh but compromised for 33,000GWh, a rise on the Federal Government’s proposition of 32,500GWh.

The small scale solar scheme will also remain untouched.

“It will in fact be a challenge for the industry to achieve that outcome but it will be over to them,” Environment minister Greg Hunt said.

“I hope and expect that this can be settled now. The number has been agreed upon, the small scale has been agreed upon and the detail we’ll look to resolve in the coming days.”

Industry and Science minister Ian Macfarlane described the talks with Labor as “fruitful”.

Clean Energy Council (CEC) chief executive Kane Thornton said it was pleasing to have the deadlock almost resolved, despite the target being lower than hoped.

“The renewable energy sector would reluctantly accept a resolution of the RET at a target level of 33,000GWh of large-scale renewable energy by 2020, along with the removal of legislated reviews, an unchanged small-scale scheme and the continuation and increased focus on initiatives to deliver technology diversity,” Mr Thornton said.

The CEC expressed concern regarding the government’s proposition to include biomass in the scheme which it does not support unless it is verified as coming from sustainably managed forests.

Climate Change shadow minister Mark Butler said he was disappointed that the Federal Government decided to throw a “red herring” on the table at the last minute.

“There is no case for introducing native wood waste burning into the renewable energy industry and I want to be very clear that Labor will not be accepting this proposal from the government,” he said.

Mr Macfarlane said the wood waste issue was yet to be agreed on but was “confident that one way or another we will resolve it”.

The CEC also said it was concerned about the continuation of the two-yearly review of the RET, which were described as the root cause of the crisis that the industry was facing.

However, Mr Macfarlane said the reviews were necessary and were not met with opposition from Energy and Resources shadow minister Gary Gray.

“We have to remember the size of the task; we have to see as much renewable energy generation, in fact more, created in the next five years, as has been created in the last 15,” he said.

“That is a massive task. It’s why the Cabinet [last Thursday night] insisted that we maintain the biennial review process, because it has the potential to impact on the price of household electricity.”