The Australian Labor Party, currently in opposition, have pledged that if it wins the next election, it will attempt to gain 50% renewables by 2030.
In an announcement made Wednesday, the Australian Labor Party (Labor), have promised to “put a strong renewable energy sector at the centre of Australia’s response to the challenge of climate change, creating jobs, driving investment and pushing down power bills for families and small business.”
The announcement comes following weeks and months of political back and forth between the two leading parties in Australia regarding the role of renewable energy. (For a full run-down on Australia’s atrocious energy and climate policies, head on over to RenewEconomy for all the information and to stay up to date on further developments.) In short, however, the current party in power, the Liberal Party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, have prioritized coal generation and repeatedly stripped the renewable energy industry in Australia of much needed governmental and economic support.
To combat this, Labor is promising an attempt at, rather than a mandate of, 50% of the country’s electricity energy mix coming from renewable energy by 2030.
The Labor Party states that they “want to see more solar panels on the roof-tops of Australian homes and businesses … battery technology developed to the point that electricity from solar panels can be stored in our homes and small businesses,” and they “want to make sure that investors in wind farms can be confident about investing in wind power.”
The announcement was welcomed by renewable industry groups. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said that while the recent return to bipartisanship on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) was essential for the industry’s immediate future, shifting to a cleaner energy system required a much longer-term commitment that would underpin billions of dollars’ worth of investment in clean energy.
“The Australian Labor Party must be congratulated for taking such strong leadership and recognising the enormous role that renewable energy can play in Australia’s future, both in terms of dealing with the challenge of climate change and creating economic opportunities,” Mr Thornton said.
“A much longer-term commitment to renewable energy will ensure that projects can continue to attract necessary finance up to and beyond 2020, and that exciting new technologies like large-scale solar, geothermal and ocean energy have the opportunity to contribute to Australia’s energy mix as they become increasing competitive over the next decade.”
However, in a completely unsurprising turn of events, the news was immediately derided by members of the country’s fossil fuel industry. Writing on their website, Chief Executive of the Minerals Council of Australia Brendan Pearson claimed that “policy measures to require an increase in the share of renewable energy to 50 per cent by 2030 will be economically costly, punish household and industrial energy users and harm Australia’s competitiveness.”
Specifically, Mr Pearson claimed that “the existing 23 per cent Renewable Energy Target by 2020 provides an estimated $19 to $22 billion subsidy to the renewable sector, a cost that is borne by consumers and industrial users. This translates into a 9 to 15 per cent increase in energy costs for industrial users.” According to Mr Pearson, if Labor were to succeed in setting a 50% target, “the subsidies to renewables will double or even triple by 2030, at extraordinary cost to energy consumers.”
His cry is the cry of many: “Renewable energy must win increased market share on its own merits, not be guaranteed it by massive subsidies.”
Importantly, the Sydney Morning Herald got in touch with Bloomberg New Energy Finance head of Australia analyst Kobad Bhavnagri:
“A “suite of policy mechanisms” would be needed to achieve the 50 per cent goal. He said power prices were unlikely to be affected and the move to renewables would lead to more overall jobs, however “quite a few” coal-fired generators would have to close.”