BY: Bob Hill

Any day now the Federal government’s committee is expected to bring down its recommendations concerning the Renewable Energy Target (RET) – its very carefully chosen committee, including climate sceptics and opponents of government support for renewable energy, No guessing what it will recommend! A recent study commissioned by the Climate Institute and a number of environmental groups shows that weakening the RET would generate huge profits for coal and gas generators like AGL, Origin & Energy Australia massively increase carbon emissions and destroy the renewable energy industry in Australia.

The RET was introduced by the Howard government and has since been supported by both major parties. The coalition promised at the last election to retain it. It requires energy providers to supply 20% of it power from renewable sources by 2020. It has been partly responsible for the growth in large scale renewable energy in Australia over the last decade. Now uncertainty about its future has contributed to a dramatic drop in investment in clean energy. In the first half of this year just $40 million has been invested in large scale renewable energy projects in Australia. This compares to 2013 when $2.7 billion was invested, mainly in wind power projects. International companies are closing their Australian offices. Over a million Australians have invested in renewable energy but the Federal government is killing an industry providing clean energy and thousands of jobs in regional Australia.

The government has dropped the ball on climate change policy. It has ended the carbon tax. Its direct action policy is unlikely to get through the Senate and now with the RET in doubt, its only price on carbon is the petrol levy which it is proposing to increase without compensation for low income earners.

Fortunately in NSW the Baird government has supported a strong RET and is encouraging NSW to follow the example of California and strengthen its renewable energy industry. It will need to move soon!

Ironically, it is that promoter of coal mining Clive Palmer who looks to be the major protector of the renewable energy sector by his party’s decision to oppose any reduction to the RET. Lets hope he doesn’t back down on this one.

But wouldn’t it be so much easier for the renewable energy industry if the major parties at both Federal and State levels could develop a consistent, long- term, bipartisan strategy to protect employment in the renewable industry and enable investors to make the necessary investments without the point scoring and flip flops that have characterised our policies on carbon reduction.

BCCAN has requested a meeting with John Cobb to express our concern about the process and explain the importance of the renewable energy industry in regional Australia. Months later we are still waiting.

Bob Hill is a member of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network and Central NSW Renewable Energy Cooperative