Jacqui Lambie in announcing her resignation from the Palmer United Party said:
“I am now free to negotiate with the government and other members of this parliament ... for reform of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Renewable Energy Target…”
In an ominous sign for the renewables sector she mentioned just one other matter was top of her agenda to negotiate with the government over – Bass Strait transportation costs.
In a subsequent press conference it became apparent that the renewable energy sector has done an exceedingly poor job in briefing Lambie on the facts surrounding both the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
Lambie seems to believe the RET is costing Tasmania 10,000 jobs. Yet this is patently impossible. There are just three businesses for which the RET would have an effect that represented greater than 1% of costs: the Hobart zinc smelter, the Temco manganese smelter and Rio Tinto’s Bell Bay aluminium smelter. The combined total of their employment, including contractors, is 1500 staff. Are these jobs seriously in the gun due to a cost item that represents less than 2.5% of revenue for the aluminium smelter, about 1.5% for Temco and less 1% of the zinc smelter’s margin?
When asked by a journalist about the fact that the RET has supported the construction of wind farms in Tasmania she said she was unhappy that the RET did not provide any support for Hydro Tasmania (while also mentioning she was in favour of solar).
Yet Hydro Tasmania has been a bigger beneficiary from the RET than any other company bar none, creating around ten million renewable energy certificates from its hydro generators, on top of several more million from its wind farms. As Ketan Joshi illustrates in his article today, the RET is a net money spinner for the Tasmanian economy with the state creating vastly more money from the scheme than its power consumers pay.
According to Canberra insiders the problem lies with Lambie’s chief of staff, Rob Messenger. According to sources that have met with Lambie, when the subject of the RET comes up, Messenger takes over the meeting. He describes the RET as a tax and an unnecessary impost on Tasmania, which already has 100% renewable energy. It apparently becomes impossible to get any facts or data through to Lambie because Messenger acts to filter such information out to insert his own opinion.
In the end however none of this may matter.
One source informed Climate Spectator that ministers Greg Hunt and Ian Macfarlane have ruled out seeking to get their changes to the RET through via the crossbench senators. Major industry groups such as the Business Council of Australia, the Energy Supply Association of Australia and the Australian Industry Group have apparently made it very clear to the government that they want any agreement on changes to the RET to be made with Labor consent. An agreement secured through the crossbenchers is seen as too tenuous and uncertain for the energy sector, which involves investment decisions that come in at several hundred million dollars a pop.