The Clean Energy Week conference opened with the Coalition being challenged by both AGL’s Michael Fraser and Labor’s Climate Change Parliamentary Secretary Yvette D’Ath.
AGL CEO Michael Fraser explained that there was still time available for projects to be built to meet the large-scale Renewable Energy Target. But the investment won’t be there if the current uncertainty about the level of the target and continual two yearly reviews remained. By next year he said government needed to settle once and for all what the level of the Renewable Energy Target would be.
While he didn’t explicitly mention the Coalition, it was pretty clear to all who was the intended recipient of the message.
Labor’s Yvette D’Ath then made it more explicit, challenging the Coalition’s representative at the conference, Simon Birmingham, to stop talking about a 20 per cent target and make it clear whether it would keep the target at 41,000GWh.
Birmingham responded without fluffing around, stating that the Coalition supported the RET as currently legislated with its fixed 41,000GWh target. This is the first time that I’m aware that a Coalition spokesperson has made an explicit and unambiguous public commitment of support for the target in gigawatt-hours rather than as ‘20 per cent’.
However there was a rider to his commitment. The Coalition, unlike Labor, would proceed with a review of the scheme in 2014.
A commitment to 41,000GWh is good news for the renewable energy sector. But it won’t be worth much if the scheme is to be reviewed by the Productivity Commission in 2014.
So far the Coalition has said nothing about who would be commissioned to undertake the review of the RET other than it won’t be the Climate Change Authority (which they intend to close down). There is a push amongst a number of opponents of the RET to have it reviewed by the Productivity Commission.
Given the Productivity Commission’s prior statements on climate change policy, you could expect that no matter what evidence is presented to the Commission about the RET, the answer will be: ‘scrap it’.