Australia Backs Renewable Energy Targets

By James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld
March 27, 2013

In response to a statutory review, The Australian Government’s Climate Change Authority has committed to maintaining its renewable energy target (RET) of 20% of the nation’s electricity (roughly 41,000 GWh) coming from renewable sources by 2020. The Government also emphasizes that 20% is only a minimum target, and leaves “the way open for improvements in energy efficiency to deliver a higher share of renewable energy.”

“Arguments to reduce or cap renewable energy at 20% of generation in 2020 ignore the need to reduce the emissions-intensity of Australia’s electricity sector so that we remain competitive as the world moves to clean energy,” said the Gillard Government in a recent statement.

Last December, the Authority offered 34 recommendations in a review of the RET; 28 of those have been accepted, three rejected, and three flagged for further review. One target will not be changed despite the CCA’s recommendation: a 100-kW ceiling for solar PV systems to qualify as small-scale renewable energy projects. The CCA had recommended a 10-kW limit.

Since 2007, over 2 GW of large-scale renewable energy projects have been completed, in addition to nearly a million rooftop solar PV systems and over half a million solar and heat-pump water systems. Changing the RET now would “create investment uncertainty that would undermine existing and proposed renewable energy investment in Australia,” stated Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, as well as massively increase carbon pollution.

Opposition leaders are supporting the RET’s current 20% target, saying they are not and have not proposed changes. But they also reiterate their intent to revisit the RET in 2014 (and maybe much sooner), with an emphasis on any changes in electricity demand. A significant dropoff in overall demand (as is expected) likely would mean the fixed RET could well overshoot the targeted 20%, thus setting the stage down the road for another battle over the legislated RET target.

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