Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, recently announced a review of the Government's Renewable Energy Target (RET).
The RET, set up under the Howard Government and expanded under Labor, mandates that 20% of energy will be derived from renewables by 2020.  This has obviously been a  bi-partisan approach to reducing greenhouse emissions. 

The target has already been reviewed a number of times but was again due for review under legislation this year by the Climate Change Authority (CCA) which the Abbott Government plans to abolish.  Although the Government has been unable to abolish the CCA as it does not have the numbers in the Senate, it has sidelined this independent body and set up its own review panel. The panel is led by businessman Dick Warburton, an acknowledged climate sceptic who is no friend of the renewable energy sector.  The background of the other three panel members has also not inspired critics with any confidence that the review will be even-handed.  

Indeed, comments by Prime Minister Abbott about upward pressures on electricity prices from renewables suggest the result he is looking for from the review.  Interestingly the Prime Minister does not mention the impact of improving infrastructure - the "poles and wires" component of the electricity grid - on the upward movement of prices.  This is yet another indication that the axe he wants to grind relates to climate change and clean energy and is not really about general concern about electricity pricing.

 In addition – and unsurprisingly - some of the major fossil fuel energy suppliers are calling for a reduction in the RET. They clearly do not want competition from clean energy sources which over time will become more competitive in price.

Those in the renewable energy sector are worried that the target will be reduced or even removed. They say that billions of dollars in investment will be significantly hurt if the target is substantially lowered.  Given the climate of uncertainty produced by comments from the Prime Minister and the apparent bias in the review panel, investment in renewables is likely to suffer even before the result of the review is announced.  

In an economic climate where jobs are going in manufacturing, logic would suggest that the Government would be anxious to encourage the expansion of the renewable energy sector.  The fact that it obviously has no interest in seeing this sector prosper suggests that ideology and not common sense is shaping policy. Is this lack of interest in renewables a sign that both Abbott and his Government still subscribe to the "climate change is crap" view?

The Government's review will present its findings to the Prime Minister's Department by mid-year.

The way this review has been organised – and the composition of the panel – is yet another indication of the Abbott Government's lack of concern about climate change.  There is certainly no sense of urgency about meeting the challenges we as a nation and our children and grandchildren are going to face in coming years.