Aussie anger at 'scrap target' reports

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott

Wind group Senvion and power-producer Infigen were among the big-hitters in Australian renewables to warn its government of dire consequences if it scraps the country’s renewable energy target (RET) – which local reports suggest looks increasingly possible.

Although a long-running review of the RET is still underway, Australian media suggests the Conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott is planning to abolish it altogether, rather than scale it back.

The Australian Financial Review reported that Abbott has asked the climate-sceptical business leader heading the review, Dick Warburton "to do more work on the option of terminating the target altogether”.

The review's outcome is due any time, and is now likely to suggest ending the RET under a "closed to new entrants scenario'' in which existing contracts only would be honoured, according to reports.

The current target includes a mandated goal of 41TWh of power annually from large-scale renewables by 2020.

Clive Palmer, leader of the Palmer United Party (PUP), has vowed to block any change to the RET until after the 2016 election, potentially delaying the government’s ability to act.

The Australian renewables industry was quick to voice its horror at the latest reports of Abbott’s intentions.

The review process received more than 24,000 submissions with 99% in support of keeping or increasing the RET, said Senvion, a unit of India’s Suzlon.

"There are problems with Australia's power network – but having too much renewables isn't one of them," said Senvion Australia's CEO Chris Judd.

"People clearly want more renewables, and we urge the Prime Minister to listen to the voters and focus on the future of energy supply in Australia."

Judd said with declining demand for electricity and a strong supply, now was the safest time to continue to move steadily to a less-polluting energy base.

"Any change to that position – which the Coalition went to the polls on in 2013 – would be pulling the rug out from under businesses," he added.

Senvion Australia has invested over $2.5bn in 18 wind farms across Australia based on the strength of the longstanding bipartisan support for the RET, including commitments to retain a target level of 41TWh.

Wind producer Infigen Energy said the reported move would hit investors, employers and Australia's reputation as a stable investment environment.

"The reported intentions of Mr Abbott amount to economic vandalism, pandering to the climate sceptic minority and represents a total misread of community aspirations," claimed Miles George, Infigen's managing director.

Solar group Silex today said it is scrapping plans for a 100MW plant, citing fears over the RET among the reasons.

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