The Australian Government has released the Terms of Reference (PDF) for the nation’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) review and announced the members of the review panel.
Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane said the review will examine the RET’s effectiveness in reducing emissions along with its costs and benefits. The Minister stated the review will be “open and transparent”. The results of the review will be provided to Government by the middle of the year.
The review panel will be headed by Mr Dick Warburton AO LVO and will include Mr Matthew Zema, Dr Brian Fisher AO PSM and Shirley In’t Veld.
According to Giles Parkinson of RenewEconomy; the Government has chosen a “climate change denier” to head the review and this “does not bode well for the renewable energy industry in Australia.” Mr. Parkinson goes on to detail concerns about other members of the panel.
The Clean Energy Council has received the news with a “bring it on” attitude.
“We relish the opportunity to demonstrate the $18 billion value that the existing Renewable Energy Target represents for our economy, and also for the nation to show current and future investors that Australia is open for business,” said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive David Green.
The Sustainable Energy Association is also confident the review will show the RET to be good value for money.
“The RET encourages a diversity of energy sources and encourages us to capitalise on Australia’s natural renewable resources. It is also helping push down the wholesale cost of electricity, which is a positive outcome for everyone, including industry,” said SEA Chief Executive Kirsten Rose.
The Australian Solar Council is more wary of the proceedings.
“The Government has said everything is on the table in reviewing the Renewable Energy Target. That means abolishing the Renewable Energy Target is on the table,” said John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council.
“Recent research shows 8,000 jobs could be lost if the Renewable Energy Target is axed.”
Also wary is Solar Citizens, a community voice for solar.
“In today’s announcement, while Minister Hunt and Minister McFarlane assured they are committed to reviewing the costs and benefits of the RET fairly, but the make-up of the panel members tell a different story,” says Lindsay Soutar, National Director of Solar Citizens.
“Each has a long history in the fossil fuel industry or as an opponent of carbon reduction measures.”
The Renewable Energy Target has certainly brought many benefits at minimal cost – approximately 3% – 5% of the average electricity bill. However, many feel the review game is rigged through the choice of panel and the beating of the anti-renewables drum in the lead up; including from the Prime Minister himself (repeatedly).
Considering a positive outcome for Australian renewable energy is anything but certain, once again it seems the best time to install solar power systems could well be right now while subsidies are at their current level.
According to national solar provider Energy Matters, current financial incentives can reduce the cost of a system by thousands of dollars. The company says solar panels also currently represents one of Australia’s best investments in terms of return.
In addition to outright purchase options, Energy Matters offers its “Save As You Go” zero-deposit payment plan whereby the savings can be more than weekly system repayment levels.