Clean energy | Subscribe News

Climate sceptic to lead review of Australia’s renewable energy target

 
Wind Turbine in Australia

A windfarm on the hills surrounding Lake George, north of Canberra. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Climate sceptic to lead review of Australia’s renewable energy target” was written by Lenore Taylor, political editor, for theguardian.com on Monday 17th February 2014 05.27 UTC

The Abbott government has appointed a self-professed climate sceptic to head an “extensive” review of the renewable energy target.

Dick Warburton, a veteran industrialist and current chairman of the Westfield Retail Trust, described his views on climate science in a 2011 interview on ABC.

“Well I am a sceptic. I’ve never moved away from that. I’ve always believed sceptical,’’ he said. “But a sceptic is a different person than a denier. I say the science is not settled. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’ve never said it’s wrong, but I don’t believe it’s settled.”

Among those joining Warburton on the long-promised review is Dr Brian Fisher, former head of the agricultural research bureau ABARES and a leading climate change modeller who repeatedly warned about the potential economic impacts of the carbon tax before it was legislated.

As flagged by the prime minister, Tony Abbott, the review’s terms of reference focus heavily on the impact of the RET on power prices, but also include the need for investment certainty for the renewables industry.

It is charged with looking at “the economic, environmental and social impacts of the RET scheme, in particular the impacts on electricity prices, energy markets, the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households” and with assessing how it fits with the government’s aim of “reducing business costs”.

The target – introduced by the Howard government and expanded by the Rudd government – now requires that 45,000 gigawatt hours of energy be sourced from renewables by 2020.

At the time it was enacted that represented 20% of the market, but due to falling electricity demand, it will now be well over 20% – which has prompted calls for the target date be pushed out or the target reduced, including a plan privately floated by the environment minister, Greg Hunt, for it to become a 25% by 2025 target.

But others, including the government’s top business adviser, Maurice Newman, want the RET scrapped altogether.

Newman, the former chairman of the ABC and the ASX, has said persisting with government subsidies for renewable energy represented a “crime against the people” because higher energy costs hit poorer households the hardest and there was no longer any logical reason to have them.

Asked whether scrapping the RET was an option for the government, the industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, said the review would be “extensive, it is not a desktop audit … it will be a complete review, and when the review comes back we’ll have a better idea of where it sits going forward.” He said the review would unpick the costs of the RET from other schemes imposed by state governments.

But Hunt said the government wanted to “encourage the development of the renewable energy industry and we want to do that in an environment that gives certainty and long-term stability … it is an industry that has contributed to Australia … and a very productive sector.”

Hunt said the RET was “complimentary” to his Direct Action plan to reduce greenhouse emissions without a carbon tax.

Warburton was also one of three experts from whom Macfarlane sought advice about providing assistance to SPC Ardmona and who are understood to have recommended some federal funding be provided, a recommendation cabinet rejected.

The other review members are Shirley In’t Veld, former boss of Verve Energy, and Matthew Zema, chief executive of the Australian Energy Markers Operator. It will take submissions from industry and the public and have a secretariat in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and must report by mid year.

Abbott signalled before Christmas the target could be wound back or the scheme scrapped, suggesting lower power prices are the government’s primary goal and the rationale for the RET no longer exists.

According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, in 2013-14 the RET was responsible for around 4% of the average household bill, falling to a likely 3.1% in 2014-15.

Other estimates, from the New South Wales Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal and the Queensland Competition Authority, fall within a range of between 3 and 5% of retail electricity bills.

 

Pages: 1 2

Comments are closed.

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.