Attacks on renewable energy a hit on consumers, windfall for fossils

Intro

With the Government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) review expected to report back shortly, new research has shown that a reduction to the target will represent a $10 billion windfall for fossil generators over the next 15 years, at the expense of the climate and consumers. Inside sources say that early feedback from the Government’s hand-picked review panel awkwardly contradicts its rhetoric demonising the RET for price rises, leading the Government to ask for a scenario where the RET is abolished altogether – something it claims it has no interest in doing. Given 99 per cent of submissions received by the review panel support the target, the continued mixed messages coming out of the Government appear to be about softening up the public for an industry-desired cut to a “real 20 per cent” target. Australia is currently on track for 28 per cent by 2020, abandoning this will cost jobs, leave consumers with higher bills, and put an extra 150 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by 2030.

Tweet

  • MT @RBrazzale: Now more than ever we must stand up as Govt moves to abolish #RET at a cost of $10.6bn investment http://t.co/WlGAwOGewE

Actions

  • Hashtags in use: #renewableenergy #whobenefits #RET #climate
  • Targets: @AGLenergy @OriginEnergy @EnergyAustralia

Key Points

  • Tony Abbott’s own hand-picked renewable-hostile review panel has found that reducing the renewable energy target will not cause power bills to fall, and will likely make them rise in the longer term. This is consistent with other recent ACIL Allen and Roam Consulting modelling. Overall, any case the Government may want to put for reducing or getting rid of the RET because it’s a burden on struggling families has collapsed.
  • The push by power companies to weaken the renewable energy target is cynical and motivated by self-interest, and the Abbott government will be hurting, not helping Australian consumers by caving in to the fossil industry. Changes to the target will lead to $8 billion in additional profits going to coal and $2 billion to gas generators, including $2 billion for EnergyAustralia, $1.5 billion for Origin and $1 billion for AGL. Reducing renewable support will lead to a terrible trifecta of higher power bills, fewer jobs, and 150 million tonnes more carbon being released by 2030.
  • Australia’s “natural advantage” is renewable energy – not fossil fuels as the industry would have us believe. Any attempt to fight the future by undermining the RET will ultimately be futile, and to the detriment of Australian households in the short term. A typical NSW household annually using 6.5 megawatt-hours of electricity would pay $35 more a year if the RET is reduced if the RET was reduced to a “real 20 per cent” target, and an additional $80 if abolished.

Background

The Abbott government’s ruminating on its next renewable energy attack hit yet another snag this week, when new independent research commissioned by The Climate Institute, WWF and the Australian Conservation Foundation finding that reducing the Renewable Energy Target (RET) will not cause power bills to fall, but will rather represent a $10 billion windfall for fossil generators over the next 15 years.

The Government’s hand-picked renewable-hostile RET review panel is expected to report back shortly, and reports from inside sources make two things clear. Firstly: the Government appears to be engineering a cut to the target and is softening up the conversation by alluding to a possible abolishing of it altogether (although it denies this).

Secondly: early feedback from the review panel awkwardly contradicts PM Abbott’s rhetoric demonising the RET for price rises. Government commissioned and independent modeling alike shows that consumers will be better off with the RET staying as it is. Any case the Government may want to put for cutting the RET because it’s a burden on struggling families has collapsed before it has had a chance to argue it.

As it currently stands, the RET is set to deliver 20 per cent, or 41,000GWh of electricity via renewable sources by 2020, but due to lower than expected demand it is currently on track to deliver 28 per cent by then. This is what is driving calls from fossil generators and politicians sympathetic to them to turn the RET into a “real 20 per cent” by cutting the target to 27,000GWh.

Given 99 per cent of submissions received by RET review panel supported the target as is, and a separate Senate inquiry into the government’s plan to scrap the Australian Renewable Energy Agency found similar support, the continued mixed messages coming out of the Government do appear to be more about softening up the public for a cut to a  “real 20 per cent”.

That this will come at the expense of the renewable industry and consumers would be regrettable, but worse still reducing the RET to 27,000GWh will lead to an additional 150 million tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere by 2030, further undermining any emissions reduction “direct action” the Government takes.

Overall, like the recent move in Queensland to restructure electricity pricing and charge businesses $500 a day to read the meter – which has not led to higher electricity prices, but rather specifically adjusted the way things are charged to discourage the switch to grid-tied solar – the push to weaken the RET is cynical, motivated by self-interest, and ultimately to the detriment of consumers and the environment.

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Key quotes

  • “The RET is a bipartisan policy that is effectively reducing carbon pollution from the electricity sector and building our nation’s renewable energy industry. Both these objectives are vital – they help avoid dangerous climate change and sensibly position Australia’s economy to remain competitive in a world moving to clean energy sources.” CEO The Climate Institute, John Connor.
  • “We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013.
  • “Our position is to keep the renewable energy target in place. The government remains committed to the renewable energy target.” Liberal Senator Mathias Cormann.
  • “Power producers don’t want to change the RET so they can charge less for electricity. The reason they oppose it is that they want to make more money.” Deputy chief executive of The Climate Institute, Erwin Jackson.
  • “I am a strong supporter of renewable energy. That’s why our government’s Renewable Energy Target is so important. With almost 15 per cent of all power generated across Australia derived from renewables, the RET is playing a very important role in driving down carbon emissions.” Liberal MP for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson.
  • “We need to be investing in the future – in clean energy for people in Australia, energy efficiency measures particularly for people on low incomes and in new jobs in sectors that are growing around the world.” CEO of ACOSS, Dr Cassandra Goldie.
  • “These power companies are trying to hide behind the customers as they work to undermine Australia’s efforts to become a clean energy leader. This research shows the power companies have eight billion reasons to attack clean energy and they have actually forgotten about their customers – and the air we all breathe.” Australian Conservation Foundation CEO, Kelly O’Shanassy.
  • “Renewable energy is crucial to combating climate change and helping protect the Great Barrier Reef and much of our unique wildlife. Australia has a natural advantage in solar and wind energy. We must build our renewable energy industry instead of supporting old, dirty power stations. The RET benefits jobs, the economy and the environment.” WWF-Australia CEO, Dermot O’Gorman.

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Suggested tweets

  • RT @TheAusInstitute: Power costs will rise if the #RET is scrapped, stay low if it is kept. Here’s an easy explainer: http://t.co/kwpCWkWG8P
  • MT @solarcitizens: 99% of submissions to the government’s RET review supported keeping or expanding the #RET http://t.co/jkafcNenHX #auspol
  • MT @climateinstitut: @OriginEnergy stands to gain $1.5B from reducing the RET and we get more #carbon pollution http://t.co/RKSe1l2tF7 #RET
  • @AGLenergy stands to gain >$1B from reducing the #renewableenergy target. And we get more #carbon pollution http://ow.ly/i/6z4fZ #climate
  • @OriginEnergy stands to gain $1.5B from reducing the #renewableenergy target. And we get more #carbon pollution http://ow.ly/i/6z4gP #RET
  • @EnergyAustralia stands to gain $2B from reducing the #renewableenergy target. And we get more #carbon pollution http://ow.ly/i/6z4hB #RET
  • Cutting the #renewableenergy target: power companies get $8B in profit & we get 150M tonnes of #carbon pollution http://ow.ly/i/6z4c0 #RET
  • Who REALLY benefits from reducing the #renewableenergy target? VIDEO: http://ow.ly/AlENj #whobenefits #climate
  • Enough renewables to power EVERY Aus home. Don’t let the #renewableenergy target go up in smoke http://ow.ly/i/6z4d3 #RET #climate
  • The #renewableenergy target has cut .5M cars worth of pollution & underpins 21,000 jobs. But not everyone is a fan… http://ow.ly/AlEUN
  • The #renewableenergy target is supported by >70% of Australians. But the big power companies want to slash it. Why? http://ow.ly/AlEX8
  • The big power companies want to slash the #renewableenergy target & burn more #coal. But if they win, we lose http://ow.ly/AlEX8 #RET