Warburton recommendations - a choice between being 'shot or hung'

The renewables industry, climate advocacy think-tanks and green groups deliver their response to the Warburton Review's damning recommendations on the Renewable Energy Target.

The review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target has recommended deep cuts to the scheme. If implemented by the government, the changes could mean closing off the scheme to new large-scale wind and solar farms, while also ending the current system of incentives for households to install solar panels and other domestic-scale technology.

Infigen Energy – ‘shot or hung’

Miles George, chief executive of renewable energy company Infigen Energy, told ABC 24 that a choice between either of the two recommendations from the Warburton Review was like being asked whether you’d prefer to be “shot or hung”.

He took issue with the review’s recommendation that the scheme be scaled back due to excess power supply, pointing out that this was a good thing for consumers and good for competition. He claimed that the review had failed to follow the request of the government to focus on the impact of the RET on consumers. Instead, he argued, the primary beneficiaries of a scale-back in the scheme were the big three power companies (presumably referring to Origin Energy, Energy Australia and AGL Energy) and that they were saying this to shareholders “while they tell the government something different”.

Clean Energy Council - 'sector destruction'

Industry body the Clean Energy Council said the review's recommendations would "decimate the industry", financially damage more than $10 billion worth of investments and put 21,000 jobs at risk.

“The review panel has clearly misunderstood the devastating effect of many of its recommendations. It is particularly naive to suggest that slashing the target would not have a massive impact on businesses that have invested on the basis of a legislated policy scheduled to operate out to 2030, and with over a decade of bipartisan support to date," CEC active chief executive Kane Thornton said.

"New research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows closing down the policy would result in the destruction of billions of dollars invested in Australia’s electricity sector, with significant write-downs and potential bankruptcies.

Thornton also said the recommendations would create a major sovereign risk issue "sending a very clear signal to international investors and financial markets that Australia’s energy sector is not open for business".

Climate Institute - 'fossil fooled'

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said the review turned a blind eye to "our massive fossil fuel subsidies".

"The economic costs the review highlights ignore existing market distorting subsidies for fossil fuel plants and give no consideration to the long-term strategic role that renewable energy will play in reducing the costs of climate change," he said.

“If the government accepts the changes ... it would see Australia increase the amount of coal in our generation mix effectively re-carbonising, rather than de-carbonising our electricity.”

Connor said stopping the RET would make emissions reductions efforts more expensive for the federal budget, with the more to fall on the government's taxpayer-funded Direct Action plan.

"By losing the pollution reduction efforts of the RET, taxpayers will have to fork out more than three-quarters of a billion dollars extra as a result," he said.

Environmental Justice Australia - 'states tied'

Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Ariane Wilkinson says states may be unable to pick up any slack, should the federal government implement the review's recommendations but be unable to pass them in the parliament – as expected.

“If the federal government accepts the recommendations released today by the Warburton RET review to close the RET to new entrants or freeze it unless energy demand increases, it could guarantee the slow death of large-scale renewable investment over time," Wilkinson said.

“Yet while the federal target still exists, the states hands are tied if they want to support renewable energy through their own renewable energy targets. Section 7C of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 says that corporations don’t have to comply with state laws on renewable energy targets."

Friends of the Earth - 'Aussies want action'

Environmental NGO Friends of the Earth – which hosted a fact-finding RET Review Road Trip this year to meet with communities affected by fossil fuels or benefitting from renewables – said the target had built an $18 billion industry and created 30,000 jobs.

Friends of the Earth's renewables spokesman Leigh Ewbank said the review was out of touch with the views of Australians.

"It ignores the community’s aspirations for a clean energy future," Ewbank said.

"Polling shows 73 per cent of Australians think the Renewable Energy Target target is ‘about right’ or ‘not high enough’. For Coalition voters the number is 64 per cent. A recent poll in The Australian found 95 per cent of respondents thought renewable energy was a 'good idea'.

“Australians will be shocked that there are no options to increase the RET, only options to axe it."

Solar Citizens - 'slashing solar in half'

Solar advocacy group Solar Citizens yesterday delivered a petition signed by more than 25,000 Australians calling for the target to be expanded or maintained. The petition was accepted by Coalition MPs Sarah Henderson and Warren Entsch.

"The current target should see at least 2 million more households go solar by 2020 but if these recommendations are adopted that number will be slashed in half," campaigns director Claire O’Rourke said.

“The Climate Change Authority conducted an extensive and thorough review into the operation of the target in 2012. The investigation by Bernie Fraser and his team gave the Target a ringing endorsement – what has changed in a year?

"Solar Citizens supports industry calls for an inquiry into the handling of the review that has been flawed and compromised from the start."

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