A bipartisan agreement on the revised Renewable Energy Target (RET) was finally reached between the Australian Government (represented by Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane and Environment Minister, Greg Hunt) and the Opposition (represented by Mark Butler and Gary Gray) on the morning of 18 May 2015 in Melbourne. There have been reports that the agreement was reached with intervention from the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s office.
As contemplated by the in principle agreement reached between the Government and the Opposition on 8 May 2015, the existing target of 41,000 GWh of large scale renewable energy by 2020 will now be reduced to 33,000 GWh. This reduction will be effected by way of legislative amendment to the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (Cth).
Australia is the first developed country to formally reduce its renewable energy target. There are suggestions the reduced RET will cause investment in Australian renewable energy projects to fall from an expected AUD20.6 billion by 2020 to AUD14.7 billion.
The Government has agreed not to pursue its proposal to continue reviewing the target every two years. This alleviates concerns over the retention of the two-yearly reviews of the scheme. These reviews have arguably been the predominant cause of the current investment freeze in the renewable energy industry. In lieu of the two-yearly reviews, annual statements detailing achievement towards meeting the RET and impacts on electricity prices will be provided by the Clean Energy Regulator.
Despite lack of support from the Opposition, the Greens and the renewable energy industry, the Government’s plan to include native forest wood waste in the range of energy sources that are eligible to contribute to the RET will be included in the relevant amending legislation which is expected to be presented to Parliament next week. The Government intends to pass this proposal with support from the Senate crossbench.
It is expected the revised RET should be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before the winter recess on 25 June 2015.
The Opposition has indicated that it would increase the 2020 target if it wins the next election, which is to be held on or before 14 January 2017.