Breeze of uncertainty holds back green tide
With the results of a review still looming, insiders say Australian renewable energy is “dead”.
No-one is keen to spend on the power supplies of tomorrow if the Australia Government does not set its sights in that direction, leaders of the sustainable energy sector warn.
The final report from a review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is expected in coming days, and Australian Solar Council chief executive John Grimes says the uncertainty cannot end soon enough.
The RET is the underpinning legislation for a huge amount of alternative energy and efficiency spending.
Investment has already slowed to trickle, Grimes says, with figures showing there was just $40 million invested in large-scale renewable projects nationwide in the year to June, compared with $2.7 billion in the year before.
“The big projects today in Australia are dead, and the only prospect of reviving them is to shift the federal government on this issue,” Mr Grimes has told Fairfax Media.
“If you’ve got a government that has all but said publicly that there’ll be no more wind farms on our watch, you have no investor confidence or certainty.”
But one of the figures with the best idea of the upcoming RET review says the goal should stay, in some form.
Clean Energy Council chairman Miles George has told reporters that he does not expect the review to recommend the scrapping of the target.
But Mr George says investors are still not prepared to take the risk that government will lower the energy goal so much that it is ineffective, though the Palmer United Party says it would block such a move.
Mr George is managing director of Infigen Energy; Australia’s largest wind farm developer and the company behind the Capital II wind farm at Bungendore, north of Canberra, which has stalled due to a lack of investment.
Business groups are calling for an adjustment of the target, based on new predictions.
The RET aims for a 20 per cent reduction in fossil-fuel driven energy supplies by 2020.
But business groups say that demand for electricity has dropped already, so what would have been 20 per cent in 2020 will now be around 28 per cent.
The issue is made complicated by contradictory modelling, with a new Deloitte Access Economics' report predicting a rise in household energy costs under an unchanged RET.
Deloitte says 5,000 jobs will be lost by keeping the RET, but renewable energy researchers say up to 20,000 jobs would be lost if it is scrapped.
Mr George disputes the Deloitte figures.
“Infigen believes it is highly improbable that electricity costs will be higher under the current RET as indicated by the Deloitte modelling because to date five other independent market experts have come to the opposite conclusion,” he said.
Several Coalition MPs are backing the push for a “real 20 per cent” figure and exemptions for the aluminium sector, which consumes a massive proportion of energy supplies.