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Australia Backs Renewable Energy Targets

In response to a statutory review, The Australian Government's Climate Change Authority has committed to maintaining its renewable energy target (RET) of 20 percent of the nation's electricity (roughly 41,000 GWh) coming from renewable sources by 2020. The Government also emphasizes that 20 percent 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 percent 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 statement.

Last December, the Climate Change Authority offered 34 recommendations in a review of the RET; 28 of those have now been accepted, three rejected, and three were 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 the Labor party was elected into office in late 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 going out of their way to support the RET's current 20 percent 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 percent, thus setting the stage down the road for another battle over the legislated RET target.

Lead image: Green 3D map of Australia, via Shutterstock

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