The Australian government has slashed its renewable energy generating targets by nearly 20 per cent in keeping with election campaign promises made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
In the culmination of protracted negotiations over the last few months, the Australian Senate voted to reduce the target from 41,000 gigawatt hours, or 20 per cent of energy generation by 2020, to 33,000.
The Senate also agreed to include waste wood burning in it’s definition of renewable energies, against the wishes of Green and Labor representatives. With a level of hyperbole characteristic of the green movement, Australian Green Party leader Larissa Waters has said that the inclusion of waste wood “is akin to printing dead koala certificates.”
The government has countered that wood will only qualify for the scheme if the primary purpose for logging is more profitable than burning for energy, Sky News has reported.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott rode to power last year on a promise to slash energy prices. Last year he told ABC News “People will notice a significant difference when they get their next quarterly power bill. We’ve had a number of power companies writing to their customers, advertising today, saying that prices will come down and those reductions will be backdated to the 1st of July.”
His conservative coalition government believes reducing the target will avoid large price hikes that would have been imposed had the higher target not been reached. Mr Abbott has also in the past voiced his opposition to wind farms, slamming them as “visually awful” and “noisy”.
But renewable campaigners are upbeat. The consultation and negotiations had injected much uncertainty into Australia’s renewables sector, thanks to concerns that the target would be reduced much further, to 27,000 Gwh.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton has said that settling the question will now allow investment to resume and for major projects to move forward.
“While this has been a challenging process, and we are disappointed by the level of reduction of the target for large-scale renewable energy, the passage of this legislation provides the platform for a doubling of renewables over the next five years,” Mr Thornton said.
“We have fought hard for a resolution of this review over the last 18 months and are confident this will see a return to work for our industry, with between 30-50 major renewable energy projects and hundreds of medium-sized projects to be built over the next five years.”
As much as AUS$40 billion more is expected to be invested by Australia in renewables over the next five years.
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