Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott initiated a review of the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) less than six-months into holding office. Months later, and Australians are waiting with baited breath for former Reserve Bank board member, and arguable climate-skeptic, Dick Warburton and his committee to hand down their recommendations in the next week or so.
However, Tony Abbott’s intentions already seem pretty clear — and if you’re part of Australia’s renewable energy community, or at all interested in Australia contributing to healing planet Earth, then you’re not likely to be too happy.
I’ve made my feelings regarding Tony Abbott’s leadership of my country pretty clear over the past several months. In July, Abbott finally managed to repeal the carbon tax enacted by the Labor Party — a decision heralded by big business — and in May a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that scrapping the Renewable Energy Target could have dramatic ramifications on consumers and employees if Abbott decides to move that way.
As the time until the review board hands down its recommendations regarding the Renewable Energy Target, I’ve been waiting to see just how bad it will turn out. There is no doubt in my mind that Tony Abbott will move to redraw the RET, but just how far he feels he can go is a matter of opinion.
Is A Fossil Fuel Energy Glut A Good Thing?
A report from the Australian Energy Market Operator published last week has found that Australia faces an energy glut not seen before in the history of the national electricity market. According to the report, South-eastern Australia will not need to ramp up energy generation for the next 10 years.
Fairfax Media have reported today that Dick Warburton has said that this report has formed “a very large part” of his review of the RET.
Unsurprisingly, Warburton’s remarks have sparked concerns that the RET will in fact be scaled back, if not entirely withdrawn. The RET currently requires that 41,000 GW/hours of renewable energy be available by 2020, but some business groups want it gone entirely.
But the reality is that Australia’s energy glut is not a ‘problem’ that should be affecting the move towards a renewable energy future.
The Energy Supply Association of Australia released statistics in 2012 showing the distribution of fuel types used to power the country. As can be seen below, the overwhelming majority of Australia’s energy generation comes from coal — one of the principle fossil fuels contributing to the planet’s deteriorating health.
And as the Bloomberg New Energy Finance report of May showed, allowing fossil fuels to remain as the primary energy generator in the country will only affect the bottom line for consumers.
“Cutting or reducing the Renewable Energy Target is likely to result in less competition among fossil-fuel power generators and strong future increases in the price of electricity,” said Kobad Bhavnagri, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s head of Australia. “This helps to explain why many of Australia’s largest power companies are now pushing for a reduction in the target.”
Australia’s Renewable Energy Industry At Risk
So what of Australia’s renewable energy industry if Tony Abbott and his sycophants are to have their way? What do we do about the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are at risk if political favor is to swing back to the traditional fossil fuel industries?
Compatriot and friend to the site, Giles Parkinson has been doing a damned good job of highlighting the renewable energy industry within Australia over at RenewEconomy, and last week he reported on the news that “South Australia’s wind farms produced energy electricity to meet 43 per cent of the state’s power needs during July.”
In fact, Australia’s renewable energy generators have been doing a stellar job of late, despite a lack of strong political and financial support for the industry. The Clean Energy Australia Report 2013 highlighted the progress of the industry, showing that 14.76% of Australia’s electricity for 2013 came from renewable energy sources — that’s enough to power the equivalent of almost 5 million Australian homes.
But with the way things look to be going, it is completely unsurprising that the industry is afraid the government could tinker with solar laws, pushing the price of rooftop solar through the … roof.
Abbott Praises Coal And Gas — Hints At Nuclear
To top it all off, and to add insult to injury, Tony Abbott went to speak to the Australian Industry Group last week and promptly made it perfectly clear just how he feels about Australia’s energy future.
“I would like us to be one of the world’s affordable energy capitals. We have an abundance of coal, we have an abundance of gas; let’s make the most of this natural advantage,” he said to the gathering, before concluding with this gem;
“But right now, we have massive reserves of coal, massive reserves of gas; let’s make the most of them.”
The sheer absurdity of Abbott’s understanding of the situation boggles the mind, and leaves one wondering just where his priorities lie and who is in his back pocket (or maybe, whose back pocket is he in).
These comments represent the last straw in understanding Tony Abbott’s position on climate change. His appointments to the four-member RET Review were but another example, as Tristan Edits wrote for Business Spectator.
The chair of the review, Dick Warburton, isn’t willing to accept the conclusions of the Academies of Science of Australia, the US, UK and other nations as well as their meteorological bureaus, that burning fossil fuels creates a major problem with global warming. And another review panel member has declared the RET as a dead-weight loss to society, and assisted the gas industry in their lobbying for it to abolished.
In the end, the actual review of the RET will simply be the final nail the coffin — a coffin, I might add, that contains the health of Australia and her international legitimacy. It’s a coffin that Tony Abbott has already been frantically throwing soil onto, hoping to have the issue dead and buried, all the while the renewable energy industry flounders under the political uncertainty, costing the consumer, the employer, and the environment.
So well done, Mister Abbott, for burying Australia’s chance to be a forward thinking, environmentally conscious, industry leading, scientifically integral, force for change. Let’s all join hands and welcome in a repeat of pre-industrial thinking, where big business drives policy to the detriment of everyone else.