Crossbench senators have written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott outlining a renewable energy target plan they believe will avoid “substantial” penalties for consumers.
Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm has been talking to crossbenchers about scaling back the Renewable Energy Target (RET) amid industry uncertainty prompted by a breakdown in major party negotiations.
The government wants to slash the target of 41,000 gigawatt hours to about 27,000, claiming that figure will represent 27 per cent of energy use by 2020 instead of the bipartisan level of 20 per cent.
Crossbench senators plan to keep the RET target at 41,000 gigawatt hours but bring excluded existing hydro and solar projects into the scheme.
That would remove the need for significant new investment in large scale renewable projects, one of the key objectives of the policy.
Newly independent senator Jacqui Lambie has advocated for hydro to be included in the RET, claiming the target disproportionately affects Tasmanians – who predominantly run on hydro-electricity.
In the letter to Mr Abbott, the senators say the plan would lower retail power prices and avoid a “shortfall charge” if the target isn’t met due to industry uncertainty.
They say consumers would have to foot the shortfall bill.
The Australian Greens say the plan is a con to boost big polluters.
“It will deliver no new investment, no new jobs and no reduction in pollution,” Greens leader Christine Milne said.
The Clean Energy Council believes the proposal would hand $13.5 billion to existing hydro power at the expense of much of the planned $14.5 billion of investment in new large-scale renewable energy.
The senators also want to exempt energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries like aluminium, an idea floated by both the government and Labor previously.