Jobs at Risk as Gov’t RET Talks Break Gown

The coalition and Labor have been warned thousands of jobs are at risk after failed talks over a new renewable energy target.

Labor quit the negotiations, saying there was no prospect of reaching an agreement.

It will only resume talks if the government signals a “significant shift” in position.

The government, while saying it was disappointed with the opposition’s decision, will continue discussions with the Senate cross bench instead.

It wants to reduce the RET – which requires 20 per cent of Australia’s power come from renewables by 2020 – by slashing the legislated target of 41,000 gigawatt hours to around 27,000 to bring it back in line with declining energy consumption patterns.

Labor says it is not prepared to go that low and has put a figure of high 30,000s on the table, arguing the industry would be crippled by the government’s planned cut.

Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler has written to Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane telling him there is no point continuing negotiations if the government wouldn’t budge.

“Labor will not stand by and watch billions of investment in the Australian renewable energy sector, along with thousands of jobs, go overseas,” he wrote.

The Clean Energy Council says the breakdown in negotiations has left 21,000 jobs hanging in the balance.

“The renewable energy sector is completely frozen until this can be resolved,” chief executive Kane Thornton said.

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor says the collapse of talks is an international embarrassment and would push renewable investment offshore to countries like China and the United States.

“Playing political football with the power sector risks making any investment in the sector impossible,” he said.

A government-initiated review of the RET found a 41,000 gigawatt target would exceed the 20 per cent goal because of falling energy consumption.

Both the government and Labor admit the lack of bipartisanship increases uncertainty for the industry and jeopardises investment.

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