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Published on September 3rd, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill


Overwhelming Public Support For Australian Renewable Energy Target

September 3rd, 2014 by  

Australian politics has been focused on the future of the country’s Renewable Energy Target for several months now, and it seems that maybe so has the rest of the country. New polling conducted by market research firm Crosby Textor has shown overwhelming support for leaving the Renewable Energy Target (RET) in place.

The national study, conducted throughout the month of August, surveyed approximately 1000 Australians and found that 82% of respondents believe the RET should definitely or probably be kept in place, with only 17% taking the opposing side of the argument.

There was a happy middle ground of 6% who were undecided, representative of those who hadn’t worked up the courage to simply hang up, most likely.

RET polling

Q7) Based on what you have read, seen or heard about the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, even if it is just a slight leaning or guess, would you say you think Australia should KEEP the target as it is, or should we LOWER the target?
Image Credit: Crosby Textor

The figures were part of a larger 2-part survey, conducted in May and June of 2013, and August of 2014. The figures highlight the changing face of Australian politics over the past 18 months: In 2013, the highest profile issue everyday-Australians were aware of was that of immigration, whereas the environment was only a 3% issue of concern. Flip that around to this August, and immigration has dropped in people’s minds to 18%, while the national conversation on the RET has pushed the issue of the environment up to 13%.

Unsurprisingly, renewable energy industry leaders and supporters have jumped on these results in the face of the Liberal Government’s attempt to abolish the RET altogether.

Clean Energy Council Acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton was quick to point out the wide spread of political views within the 82% of respondents who want the RET to remain.

“More than 80 per cent of those polled wanted the RET left alone. While there are clearly differing views within the Federal Government in regards to the future of the RET, the Crosby Textor polling commissioned by Pacific Hydro shows 70 per cent of Liberal voters want the target left alone to do its job,” Mr Thornton said.

Andrew Richards, Executive Manager External Affairs for Pacific Hydro, the Australian renewable energy company that commissioned the polling, made it clear what he thought of Tony Abbott’s current policy.

“Despite an unprecedented attack on the renewable energy industry over the last 12 months, it is very clear that Australians have made up their mind,” he said. “They want more renewable energy, not less.”

Continuing, Richards believes that “there is a clear message for our politicians in this. Australians want governments to aim higher and ensure Australia is a world leader on renewable energy.

“They definitely don’t want to go backwards.”

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  • lvogt

    It’s amazing the same people can vote for someone who is clearly working against the voters interests and wishes.

  • MrL0g1c

    It strikes me that the biggest haters of renewables are politicians, they have to be constantly barraged with public opinion that backs renewables to do anything.

    Tories in England are a prime example, at the same time as hugely expanding the area where fracking will be considered, they have put a politician who hates renewables in charge of wind farm planning applications and on top of that they want to bankrupt us by paying over 100% more than anything else for new nuclear power stations.

    Current Australian and German politicians are not much better. (Germany using the dirtiest coal and building a lot more coal stations FFS).

    • Calamity_Jean

      IIRC, Germany’s coal use has started to fall.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Started falling in 1990. Plateaued a bit following Fukushima and the decision to close reactors faster than planned. Took a small turn up in 2013 due to rising NG prices. Falling again in 2014.

        • Calamity_Jean

          It may plateau again because the natural gas supply comes from Russia. For political reasons Germany may want to reduce their consumption of Russian gas as much as possible. It’s not surprising that Germany is pushing “Passive House” renovations, which allow homes to be heated by waste cooking heat and their occupants’ bodies

          • Bob_Wallace

            Germany’s new “supercritical” coal plants are coming on line and the old inefficient ones are closing. Germany will be burning a lot less coal in order to get the same amount of power.

            It’s hard (impossible, for me) to make exact predictions. But I suspect we could see a higher percentage of electricity coming from coal while less coal is burned.

      • MrL0g1c
        • Bob_Wallace

          Germany is closing more coal capacity than it is building. The’re replacing inefficient with efficient. It’s sort of like crushing your fleet of 25 MPG cars and replacing them with 50 MPG cars. You’re still driving as many miles, but using far less fuel.

          Several years ago Germany decided to replace inefficient coal plants with more efficient “supercritical” plants as a way to decrease coal use and reduce emissions. The initial plan was that by 2020, 11.3 gigawatts would be built allowing 18.5 gigawatts of coal power capacity to be decommissioned.

          Due to the success of renewables it appears that the 11.3 gigawatt number will be lowered by at least 3 GW. Furthermore the newer plants will be more efficient, releasing less CO2 per unit electricity produced than are the ones they are replacing. And the new coal plants are partially load-following which further cuts total emissions.

          As of November 2013 some 49 power plants with a collective capacity of 7.9 GW have been submitted for decommissioning. Another 246 MW of capacity has been closed. Utilities in Germany need clearance from the government before closing and that process can take several months.

          • MrL0g1c

            The article linked states 23 new power stations are being built for a total of 24GW emitting 150 million tons of CO2 per year.

            But new figures show that coal power output in 2013 reached its highest level in more than 20 years.

            Whilst on one hand they are to be commended with regards to their wind, solar and geothermal backing, they are not looking so good on the coal front.

            The world needs to invest heavily in geothermal, solar thermal and pumped hydro etc in order to be able to match the intermittent power from wind and solar otherwise the German scenario will keep happening although other countries are relying heavily on natural gas to reduce their CO2 output.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Read your linked article carefully.

            Electricity from coal increased 0.8% in 2013. It doesn’t say coal use increased. If Germany is bringing more efficient coal plants on line and closing less efficient ones then it’s possible that Germany burned less coal in 2013 than previous years. As far as I know we don’t have numbers fo the amount of coal burned. Just the amount of electricity produced.

            “The article linked states 23 new power stations are being built for a total of 24GW emitting 150 million tons of CO2 per year.”

            Yes, but they are replacement plants. Not additional coal capacity.

            Germany doesn’t have a source of natural gas except for Russia. Germany, as I think you can understand, can’t put itself at the mercy of the Tzar.

            From you linked article –

            “So they don’t even switch off the really old power stations.”

            My final paragraph –

            “As of November 2013 some 49 power plants with a collective capacity of 7.9 GW have been submitted for decommissioning. Another 246 MW of capacity has been closed. Utilities in Germany need clearance from the government before closing and that process can take several months.”

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s some data on Germany’s coal consumption (as opposed to electricity produced from coal).

            Coal consumption per capita hasn’t increased appreciably. And, do remember, Germany has been in the process of shutting down nuclear plants, capacity which has to be replaced. That’s put a stop to continued coal use decreases, new renewable generation is getting used to replace nuclear.

            Germany should be back on track and lowering coal use further, possibly starting this year.

  • Zer0Sum

    The saddest thing about these results is that Phony Tony and his gang of Cronies are more interested in fomenting and participating in war in the Middle East, punishing poor Australians with a nasty budget and extreme fascist immigration politics than doing anything about climate change. In other words they are a bunch of sickeningly cruel psychopaths.

  • Brian Donovan

    Great news, I hope the gov listens to the people instead of the money.

    Liberal must mean something different in Australia.

    Liberal comes from Locke’s social Contract liberalism that the US founder used to create the USA.

    • Ronald Brakels

      In Australia Liberal means conservative and conservative now means dangerous radical. And while money is involed it’s not really about money. The current Coalition government appears to be making decisions based on ideology and tribalism. From their own remarks it is clear that many people in government don’t understand maths, don’t understand science, don’t understand energy, and don’t understand their own policies. There is nothing new about this among politicians, but the difference is they used to have minders who would work hard to stop them from saying anything too stupid in public. These people appear to be gone. There appears to be no one capble of doing basic reality checking in any position of influence in the current government.

      • Brian Donovan

        Money rules.

        • Ronald Brakels

          If it was just money, Coalitiion politicians wouldn’t have blown their wad for coal interests the way they have. (In ye olden days a wad of paper or cotton would be put down the barrels of black powder firearms before the bullet. Blowing one’s wad means ineffectually firing one’s weapon before the bullet has been put in. For some reason I just felt that I needed to make that clear.) If it was just about the money Coalition politicians would favour incumbant generators but would hold the threat of future cuts in emissions over them in order to extract more money from them in the future. It’s political blackmail 101 and the fact that our government can’t even blackmail properly is embarrassing.

      • LifeonBatteries

        Well I don’t think it will stop Australians installing solar panels, Back in the days before RET, REC, before T Abbott many people where doing there part installing off grid solar. We didn’t have the need back then; I don’t think we need the government now.

        Welcome to politics of T Abbott.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Eliminating the Renewable Energy Target will push up the price of electricity which will lead to people installing roughly as much rooftop solar as if it had been kept, but It does mean more pollution and more CO2 emissions than what would occur without it, which means more people die. Cutting the RET raises electricity prices for consumers, damages investor confidence, and kills people. Not a good policy choice.

          • LifeonBatteries

            I’m sure this is the case the Renewable Energy Target figures are only based on those who applied for the REC by installers. System cannot be include non applicants prior to the RET-REC law, so therefore are excluded from the final results.

  • spec9

    Then why did you vote for Tony Abbott? Ugh.

    • RobS

      Why wouldn’t you vote LNP if you support the RET when this was what their representative said publicly at the 2013 Clean Energy Week conference during the election campaign.

      “As many of you here today will know, the real driver of investment in renewable energy has been and continues to be the Renewable Energy Target. We have always supported the RET and continue to offer bi-partisan support for this scheme. It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.”

      • Calamity_Jean

        Many people who voted for them must be furious.

  • GCO

    only 17% taking the opposing side of the argument

    I count only 7 + 6 = 13%.
    Either way, the message is damn clear. Now hopefully it gets heard.

  • Brian

    Abbott is blinded by his own greed like Canada’s Harper, who cares only about the trillions of dollars he will make from the dirty Tar Sands oil. Instead of trying to sell dirty Australian coal overseas, Abbott should focus on powering Australia with 100% clean renewable energy. South Australia already gets 25% of their electricity from clean renewable energy. A combination of wind, solar, and tidal power could easily power the nation.

    • spec9

      Indeed. Canada and Australia have become to the two anglo nations that have taken a right-wing turn because of a desire to exploit a dirty domestic resource . . . tar sands for Canada and coal for Australia. Careful what you wish for . . . these are dirty resources that will only provide a temporary economic boost. Don’t get too dependent on it because climate change rules may reduce the exploitation. And at the minimum, it will run out eventually.

      • Vensonata

        Canada produces over 60% hydro. Wind and solar are just getting started. I would say our coal exports are more to be ashamed of than the tragi-comedy called the tar sands. The only light is that even if all the tar sands were extracted they would contribute only 0.36% to the carbon emissions that are allowable if we are to stay below 2 degrees warming. If the total coal reserves in the world are exploited it would raise the temperature of the earth 14 degrees C. Complete extinction! I was informed of this by Andrew Weaver, Nobel prize winning lead author with the IPCC, and also a green party member of the B.C. provincial parliament.

  • JamesWimberley

    What are the two colours? Men and women, or this poll and an earlier poll?
    82% for with 6% undecided are very, very unusual numbers. Abbott’s policy is extremely unpopular. Will the ALP opposition contrive to miss the open goal? On precedent, yes.

    • No way

      The figures were part of a larger 2-part survey, conducted in May and June of 2013, and August of 2014.

      • Calamity_Jean

        So is blue 2013 and green 2014, or vice versa?

        • Matt

          Green is newer results

          • Calamity_Jean

            So the graph indicates that strong support for the RET has grown a lot, and weak support and strong & weak opposition have all fallen a little. Good news.

        • No way

          Yes. But of course the graph should come with that kind of info. A graph where you have to guess anything is a poor graph, generally you shouldn’t even have to read any of the article and still understand the graph and get enough info from it to read it.

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