Australia’s Green Bank Urges Better Renewable Target

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Saturday, July 18th, 2015
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The nation’s green bank is calling on the federal government to extend the renewable energy target to push down power bills.

The newly legislated 2020 target – recently slashed from 41,000 gigawatt hours to 33,000 – injected some certainty back into the renewables sector after months of political stalemate.

But Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) boss Oliver Yates says the short-term trajectory of the target means the industry will have to pack up and go home in 2018.

He believes it’s an unnecessary risk for the sector, which renders it difficult to forecast revenues and secure longer-term investment.

“If you want to reduce the cost of electricity, the best way is to reduce risks,” he told a clean energy summit in Sydney recently.

The CEFC is considering an Abbott government directive to stop funding wind and rooftop solar projects – part of a deal struck with the crossbench to slash the RET.

The government says the body should fund emerging, not developed, technologies.

Mr Yates played down suggestions the wind sector could collapse without CEFC funding for new projects, saying the industry would deliver solutions in its own course.

“The CEFC doesn’t provide solutions for everybody’s problems, we’re just part of an overall solution,” he said.

The $10 billion corporation – which is commercially driven to produce taxpayer returns – is seeking advice on the government’s new directive and is expected to respond shortly and outline its interpretation of its role.

The directive comes after Prime Minister Tony Abbott labelled wind farms ugly and noisy and boasted he’d been able to reduce them as much as the Senate would allow.

Earlier, former Liberal leader John Hewson warned the sector not to be complacent while Mr Abbott was in charge of renewable policy.

“You’re getting inconsistent messages,” he told the summit.

He accused the coalition of playing politics of revenge by banning new CEFC funding for wind projects, after the government twice failed to abolish the body.

“It does look a bit like the politics of revenge,” he said.

Dr Hewson, an academic at the Australian National University who is working on his own renewable projects, said he can’t understand the economics or politics of Mr Abbott’s attack on the RET.

“It doesn’t seem to me, (Mr Abbott) needs an additional layer of political angst.”

But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Kate Carnell, who lobbied for the pared-back RET, was more sympathetic to Mr Abbott’s politics.

“People who are going to change their vote based on climate change aren’t going to vote for Tony Abbott anyway,” she said.

“Costs of living drives votes.”

Ms Carnell said business had to have access to reliable energy sources and believes the renewable energy sector must work hand in hand with the coal industry.

“Coal is not going to die in the foreseeable future,” she said.

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