The aluminium industry body, the Aluminium Council, and the Clean Energy Council have taken the unprecedented step of releasing a joint statement pleading for Labor and the Coalition Government to reach an agreement on the level of the Renewable Energy Target which provides “a strong target that supports the future of renewable energy”.
The aluminium sector must be clearly frustrated that they have managed to get both Labor and the Coalition to agree on exempting them from the costs of the RET, but can’t turn this into legislative reality. Until Labor and the Coalition can agree on any changes to the future level of the Renewable Energy Target and the operation of the small scale scheme, or SRES, then it seems highly unlikely any legislative changes (including ones they might agree on) will occur.
Shadow energy minister Gary Gray praised the conduct of both the Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane during the negotiations at a conference last week. However, he informed Climate Spectator that while Labor was willing to agree to some modest reductions in the level of the large-scale target from 41,000GWh to something in the high 30s, Hunt and Macfarlane were unable to budge from the position of cutting the scheme by 40%, and in addition curtailing the operation of the small-scale renewable energy scheme which supports rooftop solar.
Essentially, Labor faced a take it or leave it proposition with Hunt and Macfarlane given no room to move from their publicly stated position of seeking a target consistent with capping renewables at 20% of the power market.
Given how far apart the two sides appear to be, one wonders what the Aluminium Council and the Clean Energy Council can hope to achieve with the statement.
One possible effect could be that those within the Coalition partyroom deeply opposed to renewable energy, but keen on a minerals processing industry, see that leaving this issue unresolved will hurt an industry they value and see as important, not just renewable energy. They may then be willing to grant Macfarlane and Hunt greater room to move in the interests of helping out aluminium, even if it also helps out a sector they scorn.