The Moorabool Environment Group, based east of Ballarat, has joined citizens in central Victoria expressing concern over PM Tony Abbott’s attack on renewables.
It was only last night when the Abbott government announced it had rejected a significant compromise on the RET (including a substantial cut) proposed by the Clean Energy Council.
If the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten agree to a RET deal of 33,500 GWh, then they are agreeing to cut the target by nearly 20 per cent. Based on the Clean Energy Council’s own figures, this cut will result in 3,312 less jobs in Australia’s renewable energy sector by 2020 (link).
The Moorabool Environment Group (MEG) is concerned that one year after the Abbott government’s Renewable Energy Targets (RET) review was announced, there has been no decision about the amount of electricity which the government wants to see generated from renewable sources like wind and solar power.
After spending half a million dollars on the Warburton report, the government seems to have chosen not to adopt its recommendations. The reasons for its hesitancy remain unclear; is it that ministers are unable to reconcile its backward-looking desire to support the coal industry with the need for carbon emission reductions as agreed in its ‘Direct Action’ policies? Perhaps it is now wary of yet another unpopular and unreasonable policy position; perhaps it is trying to work out the lowest RET it can wheedle through the Senate.
This indecision has left renewable energy industries in a state of great uncertainty, with sizeable job losses and faltering investment in re-newables. Readers may well wonder why the government is stalling at a ‘win-win’ decision, where re-affirming the existing large-scale RET target of 41,000 gigawatt-hours from renewable energy sources would create regional jobs and help to reduce carbon emissions. Close by, the Waubra wind farm has boosted the gross regional product of the Central Highlands region by more than $340 million over 10 years.
The government’s ‘Direct Action’ policy on carbon emissions reduction is not yet convincing, and lowering the RET would only increase emissions from electricity generation, thus adding to the scope and costs of the overall emissions reduction task. It would be encouraging to see some evidence in the RET that the government is serious about meeting its 2020 emissions reduction commitment.
Renewable energy enjoys strong support in across the state. If the Abbott government manages to wind back the RET it will come at an electoral cost to LNP backbenchers in regional Victoria.
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