Australia to review renewables target

The Australian government today said its long-expected review of the country’s renewable energy target (RET) will be led by a business leader described as "a climate sceptic" by Greenpeace.

The Coalition government of Tony Abbott signalled on its election last year that it would look again at the RET, which mandates 20% of Australia’s power should come from renewables by 2020, with a 41TWh annual generation goal from large-scale renewable sources.

The RET was hailed as a success in driving investment in Australian renewables as part of a clutch of policies under the previous Labor government.

But Abbott and his colleagues have expressed concerns over the impact on power prices of the RET and other key policies such as the carbon tax, which his government plans to repeal.

Critics want to see the target watered down or even scrapped, even though a previous review in 2012 said lowering it would badly undermine investor confidence.

The government today named Dick Warburton, a former board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia, to lead an “expert review panel”.

Warburton is a leading Australian business figure – and one who has expressed sceptical views about climate change in the past.

Warburton told local media today he would ensure that the review hears all sides of the debate.

The review panel will report to the government by the middle of this year in time for its findings to be fed into an energy white paper, said a statement.

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane said: “In particular, the review will consider the contribution of the RET in reducing emissions, its impact on electricity prices and energy markets, as well as its costs and benefits for the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households.”

Clean-energy advocates said the announcement was in stark contrast to a rousing call to action on climate change by US Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech in Indonesia earlier today.

Greenpeace Australia said: “Hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change a weapon of mass destruction, Australia risks shooting itself in the foot by appointing a climate sceptic to review our renewable energy target."