The Renewable Energy Target (RET) is an important component of government policies which provide support for and encourage the development and expansion of clean energy - renewable energy - in Australia. Moving away from energy produced by fossil fuels is essential in reducing carbon emissions and combatting climate change.
The RET which was originally supported by both major federal parties is under threat. The Abbott Government, influenced by calls from the fossil fuel industry, conventional energy generators and those who are unconvinced about the threat of climate change, wants to cut the target. It has only been prevented from doing this because it lacks the numbers in the Senate. However, it is continuing to negotiate with senators in the hope of getting the required numbers.
The Government's RET policy is extremely short-sighted.
The Australian community has given strong support to renewable energy through the uptake of rooftop solar. Over one million households have had solar installed on their rooftops as a result of the RET. This uptake of rooftop solar is continuing despite the cutting back of the very generous financial incentives of some years ago. Part of this continuing trend obviously results from the declining cost of solar panels.
More than 24,000 Australians are employed in the renewable energy sector. In a country with rising unemployment, this is a significant figure. If the RET is cut, jobs will be lost in this sector. If the RET is maintained at its current level – or even increased– jobs will not be at risk and there is potential for increased employment in the sector.
As it is, the current uncertainty about the fate of the RET is having serious consequences for the renewables sector. Over the last 12 months investments are down by over 30% across the sector and there are concerns that the industry may have trouble recovering even if a decision on the RET is favourable to the industry.
If the federal government is really interested in retaining and creating jobs and in combatting climate change it should be maintaining the RET at least at its current level.
- Leonie Blain
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on 16 February 2015.