Staying in love with the RET

Ahead of the Renewable Energy Target Review, Climate Spectator spoke to key stakeholders on their position on the bipartisan policy. Is support waning or is it as strong as ever?

In August the Climate Change Authority will issue a discussion paper which will call for submissions to the Renewable Energy Target Review. A final report will be handed to the government in December.

Climate Spectator however, got a bit eager and wanted to find out what various stakeholders were (or weren't) preparing as Clean Energy Week gets into full swing. Is the RET as widely supported as it once was?

For now Origin Energy is the only active player calling for changes, but with the likes of TRUenergy and the Business Council of Australia still to form their positions, Origin could yet be joined by some powerful players.

Politically speaking, the Greens have dismissed King’s call for a change to the current RET, while Labor and the Coalition have signaled continued support for the current legislation.

We've placed the organisations into three groups: those who don't want any chances to the RET, those who do and the undecided.

NO CHANGE

AGL

AGL Head of Economics, Policy and Sustainability, Tim Nelson, voted for no change because it was for the greater good if there was a sense of stability and certainty.

"I think it would be fair to say that the RET is one of the very few shining lights in the sense of providing stability and certainty for infrastructure and investment in our sector. It's already been amended a few times in recent years and...if we keep shifting goal posts it makes it very difficult to commit the billions of dollars that are necessary to meet the target," he told Climate Spectator.

He added that, "there's no public policy rationale for amending it. Those that are calling for changes, I don’t think have fully thought through what they're asking for...The reason we've gone down the pathway of having gigawatt hour targets to date is to provide that certainty and it would be a backward step to want to talk about amending it."

Along with AGL in the no change corner is General Electric, who cited similar reasons as to why.

"GE supports the Renewable Energy Target as a key bipartisan policy to secure affordable energy for all Australians as well as underpin efforts to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 per cent by 2020 as advocated by the government and opposition," GE director ecomagination, Ben Waters, said.

"A stable RET policy will deliver certainty for project investors, developers and suppliers of renewable energy projects, and will create jobs and income for host landholders and their communities".

Clean Energy Council

Kane Thornton, director of strategy and operations at the Clean Energy Council, said it was "clear that the overwhelming message from the sector was to keep the target the same and leave it alone."

Any changes would disrupt stability, which would hurt the clean energy sector.

He added that, "in years to come the RET should expand and extend beyond 2020."

Solar Industry*

Several solar industry organisations recently had a policy summit, organised by the Australian Solar Energy Society, where the RET Review was canvassed as a key talking point:

"The Renewable Energy Target (RET) is the most successful and effective public policy measure to move Australia from excessive reliance on fossil fuels for electricity towards a clean energy economy, and the only long-term measure providing investment certainty."

"The RET has strong bipartisan support because it works."

The solar industry joined the Clean Energy Council in outlining a wish for the RET to expand beyond 2020.

"The RET is working for Australians, and should be expanded and extended as one of the most effective means of meeting Australia’s 2050 emissions reduction target."

International Power

The owner of the coal-fired Hazelwood power station in Victoria outlined its support for the scheme earlier this month.

“Over $6 billion of investment has to date been made in renewable generation and investors have relied on the RET legislation remaining in full force and effect,” International Power’s Group Manager, Corporate Affairs, Jim Kouts, said, according to The Australian.

“If legislation is changed, then it sets a worrying precedent that the legislative/regulatory goalposts will be moved again and again over the next 20 to 30 years.”

CHANGE

As covered before on Climate Spectator (Origin’s fickle renewable outlook, May 4), Origin is the one organisation we know to be lobbying strongly for changes to the current RET legislation.

Here are the reasons Origin CEO Grant King cited for change:

The original 20 per cent target had "roughly equalled the growth of demand in generation . . . But if you have the same amount now required but the demand is lower, therefore it is a higher percentage and it is going to create crowding out effects that were different at the time it was implemented."

King contends that this is "not what I believe most people signed on for."

UNDECIDED

Unsurprisingly many stakeholders we approached were undecided. These included:

TRUEnergy

Response: "The Review has only just begun, it will run for the rest of this year and TRUenergy is still considering its response."

The Australian Industry Greenhouse Network

"Yes, we will be making a submission – but anything more than that I can't answer as it isn't written yet."

The Business Council of Australia

"The BCA has yet to decide what it will include in a submission. We are awaiting the release of the discussion paper which the Clean Energy Regulator has suggested will be sometime in August."

It should be noted that both the BCA and the AIGN have previously flagged the RET as not the ‘least cost effective way’ of dealing with emissions and therefore support in past government submissions has not been forthcoming. TRU, in a 2010 submission to the government, said it supported the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET), but held concerns about the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES).

One suspects these stakeholders haven't changed their views. However, it is still early in the process and those currently undecided may surprise, as Origin has done by altering its view in recent years.

*Groups at the Solar Policy Summit were: Australian Solar Energy Society, Australian PV Association, Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association (AUSTELA), Australian Technology Association, REC Agents Association, Solar Business Council and Solar Energy Industries Association.

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