Battlefield RET : Reloaded

Tony Abbott - Renewable Energy Target

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sent yet another shiver down the spine of Australia’s renewable energy industry and invoked a refreshed round of outrage among clean power supporters.

Echoing Treasurer Joe Hockey’s sentiments a few month earlier, Prime Minister Abbott made his feelings about wind turbines clearly known while chatting with radio host Alan Jones last Thursday.

“When I’ve been up close to these wind farms, there’s no doubt, not only are they visually awful, they make a lot of noise,” said the PM.

The Prime Minister didn’t offer his opinion on the aesthetics of coal mines and coal fired power stations during the interview; but he has referred to coal as gift in the past, rather than the curse it has proven to be through its unfettered use.

Personal opinions are one thing, but to have them directly influence the energy future of an entire nation is quite another; particularly when that opinion appears to be entirely based on misinformation and already debunked myths.

Prime Minister Abbott appeared to be almost gloating over the instability wreaked on the wind power sector and his efforts in reducing the Renewable Energy Target. The PM stated his goal was to “reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow us to do”.

“What we did recently in the Senate was reduce, Alan, reduce capital R E D U C E, we reduce the number of these things that we are going to get in the future,” he said. “Now, I would frankly have liked to reduce the number a lot more.”

So after over a year of instability that discouraged investment in renewables, then what appeared to be real (albeit watered down and with a couple of devils in the details) hope, another scenario has emerged that would be giving investors a fresh bout of jitters.

The Australian Solar Council was livid with the Prime Minister Abbott’s comments and fears not only for the wind sector; but solar power too.

“He has clearly said that if he ever gets the chance to scrap the RET, he will. If he ever gets the votes of 6 of the 8 cross bench Senators – the RET is gone. Today he is probably only 1 vote short,” said Australian Solar Council CEO Grimes.

The Greens say that now even the slashed target of 33,000 gigawatt hours is uncertain and is just the first step in the Prime Minister’s “agenda to destroy the clean energy industry that the rest of the world is embracing.”

The Australian Wind Alliance says the PM’s true colours have been revealed.

“The Government has always maintained that it was cutting the RET due to an oversupply of electricity,” said national coordinator Andrew Bray. “But it’s obvious that rationale was just smoke and mirrors to cover up their real intent: to destroy wind energy in Australia.”

Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler questioned the Prime Minister and Treasurer’s knowledge of renewables, stating “…we have seen now over the last 12 months a few occasions when Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey go on to Alan Jones’s program to talk about renewable energy, they almost always end up saying something that’s completely ridiculous,” he said.