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Australian renewables target to be cut to 20%

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The Federal Government will restart negotiations on Wednesday with the Opposition over the future of the Renewable Energy Target.

The Government plans to reduce the 2020 target to a “real 20 per cent” with exemptions for trade exposed, energy intensive industries including aluminium and copper smelting. The legislation specifies the target as 41,000 gigawatt hours.

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Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said he had written to the federal opposition outlining the basis of the talks, which will start at 3.30pm on Wednesday in Canberra.

“That basis is that we will maintain the RET at 20 per cent real,” Mr Macfarlane told the National Press Club.

“Secondly, there will be no change to the household photovoltaic scheme.”

He said the government would also exempt from the target all energy-intensive trade-exposed industries as currently defined in the legislation, including aluminium.

Two-yearly reviews of the RET would cease.

“It is a plan which will provide the confidence to the renewable energy sector that they need,” the minister said.

“If the Labor party and the coalition are able to negotiate an outcome, then the industry can go forward and invest confidently. If we can’t, it’s the renewable energy industry that will get hurt.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor was engaging in discussions with the government on the renewable energy target, but had set some “no-go zones”.

“The government say they want a real 20 per cent – I call it a fraud 20 per cent,” he said.

“This government is a sovereign risk when it comes to tackling renewable energy in Australia.”

He said the Government needed “get out of the way” and let the industry do what it’s got to do.

The Australian Greens are also expected to meet with Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week for talks on the RET as well as getting the government’s Direct Action climate plan through the Senate.

RET’s double review

The Climate Change Authority is pressing ahead with a review of the renewable energy target despite the government commissioning its own review.

The CCA, an independent advisory body on climate change mitigation, has announced it is reviewing the RET despite a review having already been conducted by businessman Dick Warburton on behalf of the government.

The review comes despite the government seeking to abolish the CCA – a move being frustrated in the Senate by the Greens, Labor and the Palmer United Party.

It will draw on modelling and analysis done for the Warburton report, as well as a 2012 CCA report.

The RET is a bipartisan target of 20 per cent of Australia’s energy use to be sourced from renewable energy by 2020.

The legislation specifies the target as 41,000 gigawatt hours.

But the government says changes in Australia’s energy use mean that gigawatt-hour figure is likely to represent much more than 20 per cent by the end of the decade and will be costly over time for business and households.

The Warburton review findings, which the government is still considering, sought the scaling back of the RET to ease pressure on power prices.

The CCA revealed in Senate estimates this week that despite concerns it was being wound down before its abolition, the agency still had access to $3.4 million in unspent funds and $3.5 million in the environment department budget.

The CCA is also conducting a review, due to be completed by the end of 2014, of the carbon farming initiative which is part of the government’s Direct Action plan.

The review will cover proposed changes, a possible expansion of the scheme’s scope and how it interacts with other climate policies.

Securing the future of the CCA and the RET are key points in Greens’ talks with the government on climate policy.

Labor also wants the CCA retained as a body to provide objective advice to government, and is pushing for the retention of the RET.

– with AAP

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