Renewable Energy Target

The consequences of South Australia’s election result on March 17 will be felt far beyond the state’s borders.

It was barely minutes after the SA Liberals, led by Steven Marshall, were declared winners that the federal Coalition began crowing that this was good news for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s signature policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

Victoria became the first state to have a Renewable Energy Target (RET) written into law on October 20. The Victorian RET has been set at 25% renewable energy by 2020, and 40% by 2025.

For a long time, Australian governments have believed that the private sector should run the electricity sector. Successive governments have used market instruments to incentivise reducing emissions, by supporting renewables, discouraging coal use, or both.

In Australia, the National Electricity Market is rapidly becoming dysfunctional, with power shortages, blackouts and soaring prices making headlines.

Private companies are refusing to invest in new fossil fuel generators to replace those that have closed. This “investment strike” is due partly to uncertainty about carbon pricing and partly to increasingly volatile spot prices received by generators.

Readers may have noticed that Australia is in the midst of an energy war. On one side are right-wing commentators attacking renewable energy at every turn. On the other side are renewables advocates, quick to retaliate, sometimes without considering the whole story.

Australia's large energy companies appear to prefer to accept fines for not building renewable energy rather than build it and weaken their investments in coal and gas generation.

When the Tony Abbott government passed legislation to reduce the Renewable Energy Target (RET) by about 20% in June 2015, some supporters of renewables hoped that an end to policy uncertainty would free up finance for investment and get planned projects into the construction phase.

This is a reply by GetUp!’s Anthony Gough to Andrea Bunting’s article “GetUp, Oxfam’s Powershop partnership raises questions” printed in Green Left Weekly #1064.

It has been about 12 months since we at GetUp! launched the Better Power campaign, and so far we have encouraged 12,000 people to switch their household electricity away from Australia's biggest polluters.

Has a not-for-profit or charity (an NGO) contacted you to suggest switching electricity retailer? Are you convinced this helps them promote their causes while also addressing climate change?

Several NGOs are now promoting an electricity retailer Powershop to their supporters. Australian activist group GetUp! pioneered such marketing. Others forming partnerships with Powershop include anti-poverty charity Oxfam, and environmental NGOs.

On June 23, Australia's parliament voted to reduce the Renewable Energy Target for 2020 from 41 to 33 terawatt hours of renewable electricity, following a long struggle by the government to win support from minor party Senators for the cuts.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he “would frankly have liked to reduce the number a lot more”.

The deal he cut in the Senate will see the potential for “wood waste” from logging of native forests to be burned to generate “renewable electricity” as part of the target.

Australia has fallen behind similar economies around the world in the generation of renewable energy, a new report has found.

The Climate Council’s new report, The global renewable energy boom: How Australia is missing out, says that despite having enough renewable energy resources to power the country 500 times over, jobs and investment in the renewables sector have fallen sharply since the Coalition government came to power.

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