Renewable energy target cut, Govt to push rooftop solar over wind

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Well over a year of job-destroying, investment-stalling wrangling over Australia’s renewable energy target (RET) came to an end last night, with the Abbott Government’s attack on clean energy successfully getting the 2020 target cut from 41,000GWh by 2020 to 33,000GWh. “RET destruction day” makes Australia the first developed country to cut its renewable energy target, another inauspicious development given it was also the first to remove a working carbon price. While the deal finally gives the renewable industry – particularly rooftop solar – some certainty to move forward, it is a small comfort given the Government has created a laughable “wind farm commissioner” to investigate baseless health complaints. By comparison, there is no “coal commissioner” investigating the well-documented and significant health impacts of that industry, and no close official scrutiny of the billions in subsidies handed to the coal industry, or the tax breaks and government access its lobby groups enjoy. All signs point to the Abbott government listening to demonstrably wrong opinions on wind, such as Alan Moran’s, leaving it “stuck in the past” defending fossil fuels while the rest of the world – including the G7, China, India (and those investing in India), and even Saudi Arabia – leave it behind to seize the many economic, social, health and environmental benefits that come with the clean energy transition.

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  • “The Abbott Government has done another deal on the side to strangle the wind industry with unfair regulations, which don’t apply to industries with genuine health impacts, like coal and gas. The Liberal and Labor parties have just cost Australians thousands of jobs, billions in investment and condemned native forests to be burnt. Labor also failed to support our amendment to lift the ban on more ambitious state and territory renewable energy targets, even though this is what some of their own state governments want.” Australian Greens Deputy Leader and climate change spokesperson, Senator Larissa Waters.
  • “While this has been a challenging process, and we are disappointed by the level of reduction of the target for large-scale renewable energy, the passage of this legislation provides the platform for a doubling of renewables over the next five years. The legislation also removes the two-yearly reviews of the scheme and ensures no changes to the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, which is great news for thousands of people working in the rooftop solar and solar hot water sectors. [T]his will see a return to work for our industry, with between 30-50 major renewable energy projects and hundreds of medium-sized projects to be built over the next five years.” Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton.
  • “Two years ago, by way of illustration, the Prime Minister and Mr Hunt got rid of the Climate Change Commissioner, Tim Flannery, ostensibly on the grounds that he was too expensive and that really it was the Environment Department’s responsibility to look at climate change. The Wind Farm Commissioner – whose job, according to Mr Hunt’s letter, will be to receive complaints and pass them along to the relevant state authorities – is an entirely different proposition, of course.” Journalist Annabel Crabb.
  • “We are going back to using dirty medieval technology that pretends to be sustainable and clean. In reality it will undermine real renewables like solar and wind. It will produce more emissions than burning coal and cause immense loss of ecosystems, wildlife and our greatest carbon stores. It’s hard to imagine a worse scenario.” The Australian Forests and Climate Alliance (AFCA).
  • “What we did recently in the Senate was to reduce, Alan, capital R-E-D-U-C-E, the number of these things that we are going to get in the future … I frankly would have likely to have reduced the number a lot more but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate and if we hadn’t had a deal, Alan, we would have been stuck with even more of these things … What we are managing to do through this admittedly imperfect deal with the Senate is to reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow us to do.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
  • “The value of coal stock in the United States has gone down 60 to 90 per cent. This is a global phenomenon and we want to get out of those because we see the fossil fuel investments as risky. If you look just at the financial data in Australia … The value of coal stocks has gone down by 71 per cent, so you’ve lost a lot of money if you’ve been in coal. You look at Australia, which is such a fragile environment in so many ways, and you think of what’s planned for the Galilee Basin. It is just heartbreaking and I just don’t understand. In my mind Australia’s an extremely progressive country that has been an international player on so many issues. It is baffling to me why the current Australian Government is stuck in the past rather than looking towards the future and becoming part of the solution.” Chair of the $1.1 billion Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Valerie Rockefeller Wayne.

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