Clean Power

Published on August 19th, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill


Tony Abbott Planning To Kill Australia’s Renewable Energy Target

August 19th, 2014 by  

Let’s not kid ourselves — we all saw this coming. Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reportedly asked the head of the Renewable Energy Target review to investigate abolishing the RET altogether, a process that has sidelined the Environment Minister Greg Hunt, and left renewable energy companies, fossil-fuel generators, and investor groups warning the government such a decision will ultimately damage Australia’s investment desirability.

The Australian Financial Review reported on Monday that “sources” had informed them that Mr Abbott had asked the head of the review, Dick Warburton, “to do more work on the option of terminating the target altogether”, after Mr Warburton’s review was apparently leaning towards simply scaling back the RET.

These same sources added that the Environment Minister Greg Hunt — who had advocated scaling back the RET as a compromise — “has been sidelined from the process”, leaving Mr Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey, and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann pushing for the complete abolishment of the RET.

The AFR added that their government source has confirmed that it is now “more likely” that the RET will be abolished under a so-called “closed to new entrants scenario” in which only existing contracts would be honored. The government is likely to make their decision (which is to say, announce their decision) by the end of August.

Unsurprisingly, this news has not been taken well.

“Slashing the Renewable Energy Target would devastate Australia’s renewable energy sector, send hundreds of companies to the wall and tens of thousands of hard-working Australians onto the employment scrapheap,’’ said Clean Energy Council acting chief executive Kane Thornton.

“Such a move would be reckless, given the government’s own analysis shows slashing the RET would save no money on power bills, yet would devastate billions of dollars of investments made in good faith in renewable energy projects across the country.’’

Another Bull-headed Tony Abbott Plan

Ever since entering office in September of 2013, Tony Abbott has made no bones about his distaste for existing environmental policy implemented by the previous Labor Government. The carbon tax that had been the pinnacle of previous Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s term was first on the cutting block, and after several weeks of political machinations, was finally scrapped in July of this year.

By that point, Mr Abbott had already selected Dick Warburton, former Reserve Bank board member and arguably another climate skeptic, as the head of a committee set to review the Renewable Energy Target. All the while Mr Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey, and the majority of the Liberal Government have been claiming that the carbon tax and other renewable energy policies were driving up the cost of electricity for “everyday Australians”.

Australia's renewable energy target

Economic Vandalism

In response to the weeks of inevitable speculation and rumors regarding Tony Abbott’s plans, and finally these latest revelations, renewable energy groups, investors, and even the fossil-fuel generators, are warning Mr Abbott.

Miles George, chief executive of Infigen Energy, has described the proposed changes to the RET as “economic vandalism” in an attempt to “pander to the climate-sceptic minority.” Mr George went on to reprimand the Liberal Government for creating “sovereign risk” by betraying their “often-stated position that ‘Australia is open for business'” in winding back or even closing off the RET to future investors.

In the leadup to the last federal election, when addressing over 500 people at the renewable energy industry’s annual Clean Energy Week convention in Brisbane, Senator Simon Birmingham said, “It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do though. All of it is simply conjecture. Can I make clear, the Coalition supports the current [RET] system, including the 41,000 GWh target. We know and appreciate that the industry wants certainty.”

The Australian Financial Review quoted Origin Energy and Energy Australia, electricity generators which would both benefit if the RET were abolished, as saying that the RET should be reduced, not scrapped, while GE Australia has said that killing the RET would make a mockery of the governments open for business mantra.

Solar Industry Already Suffering As World’s Largest CPV Is Scrapped

The uncertainty surrounding the likelihood the Australian Renewable Energy Target will survive has already claimed a number of investment opportunities over the past several months, none more high-profile, however, than the news that plans for the world’s largest Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) power plant have been scrapped amid low wholesale electricity prices and uncertainty over Australia’s RET.

The news came at the same time that a new report from the Australian Solar Council warning that demand for solar PV in Australia could fall by 40% to 50% if the Renewable Energy Target is scrapped.

Mildura CPV

The project, which had been set to install a 100 MW CPV power plant in the northwest of Victoria, Australia, would have been the world’s largest of its kind. Its cancellation also negates a $75 million (AUD) funding agreement with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and a $35 million (AUD) from the Victorian government.

“After careful consideration of project economics, we have decided to reassess plans for the Mildura 100 MW Solar Power Station,” said Dr Michael Goldsworthy, CEO of Silex. “Since we launched the 1.5 MW Mildura Demonstration Facility in June last year, we have captured a great deal of useful data and are now investigating alternative opportunities to build on the outstanding work already achieved at the Mildura site.”

The news comes on the heels of the announcement of French nuclear giant Areva discontinuing its attempts to commercialize Australian CPV technology.

Australia Solar Council’s Furious Response

These two announcements serve as proof of the Australia Solar Council’s reaction to the news that the RET could be scrapped.

“Under instructions from the Prime Minister, the Warburton [RET] Review did a hasty back track and is now recommending the axing of the RET,” said John Grimes, the Australian Solar Council’s CEO.

“This is a line in the sand moment for the solar industry. If the Government goes ahead with its plans to axe the RET, demand for solar will fall 40-50% straight away,” said Grimes. “Thousands of Australians will lose their jobs. Hundreds, if not thousands, of small businesses will shut up shop.”

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

  • Peter Thomson

    Policy based on ideology is a sure recipe for disaster, a la the ideology-driven policies of small Government and deregulation that culminated in the 2008 GFC.
    I sincerely hope that Labour can get their act together and offer a credible alternative, so we can vote this government out at the earliest opportunity.

  • shecky vegas

    Can’t someone just shoot Abbott in the head?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Failed to live up to your comedic abilities.

  • Matt

    Go study this problem and come back with the correct solution. Here is the answer don’t reduce RET. No that is the wrong answer. Remove the people who thought that answer was good. Ok try again.

  • spec9

    Tony Abbott as summarized by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

  • Will E

    The Australians voted for this government.

    it is not Abbott——– it is the voters, that want it this way.
    besides,—– Solar is so Cheap, 0.50 aussidollar a Kwh, every year for 25 year, makes 2 cent a Kwh
    and Australia gets 2 times installed capacity,makes 1 cent a Kwh.
    so what is the problem?

    • jeffhre

      At least one voter doesn’t think so…3:45 – 3:53 on the video above!

    • Alen

      It is definately not the voters who want this, Abbott was claiming during the election campaign that he would NOT do what he is doing right now. Recent studies and polls have shown that nearly 90% of the Australian population are pro renewable energy, as well as the submissions to the RET review of which 99% of the 24,000 submissions called for it to be maintained or Increased. Please do not connect this lunatic with what the Australian people want, and as far as I can remember his popularity was around the mid 30 mark in the last poll, so besides his fanatical right-wing supporters and his fossil fuel mates, not many people over here like him or like the path he’s leading our nation on.

      Also it was not that Abbott won the election, but rather that Labor lost it. Look at the amount of Independent senators in the senate to see what I mean. Not to forget the mass anti-Labor media campaigns that were launched by the fossil fuel industry and Rupert Murdoch in response to the carbon tax and the mining tax -in actual fact it was an ETS not a carbon tax, which had a fixed price for the first few years before it was meant to be linked to Europe and a floating price,

    • RobS

      Perhaps you failed to get far enough through the article, here is what the coalition said to the clean energy industry before the election;
      “Can I make clear, the Coalition supports the current [RET] system, including the 41,000 GWh target. We know and appreciate that the industry wants certainty.”
      When you day one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards you are NOT doing what the people elected you to do. They lied about their intentions, as they did about over a dozen major policies. This government is the most blatantly deceitful in history.

  • Brian

    Abbott has proven to be an absolute idiot, who is blinded by his greed and ignorance. Like Canada’s Harper, who is greedy and wants the trillions of dollars from selling the dirty tar sands oil overseas, and ruining the environment in the USA, Abbott is an enviromental coward, who wants to sell dirty oil to China, and other countries, even though it is contributing to Global Warming.

  • JamesWimberley

    Even Abbott’s hand-picked consultants are angry and fighting back against the ideological micromanagement. The leak must come from them.

    • RobS

      I think the leak is a targeted reframing campaign. If they leak that a total scrapping is being considered then when they announce they are recommending a “real” 20% target suddenly that will seem like a reasonable compromise middle ground position.

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