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PM wants energy target passed

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged his party to accept a pared-back renewable energy target, saying he’s keen to get it off the government’s agenda.

But the opposition is threatening to walk away from the long-awaited deal to slash the target to 33,000GWhs unless two-yearly reviews are dropped from the package.

Mr Abbott told the coalition party room on Tuesday it was time to move forward and accept the deal struck last week, fearing a sharp rise in power prices.

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Two coalition members could cross the floor if the deal goes forward, with one concerned about alleged health effects of wind turbines.

Another believes Australia does not need more renewable capacity over the next decade.

Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler said no investor would put money on the table with a review looming over the industry, as early as in seven months time.

“Unless the government drops that, this deal cannot proceed,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

The clean energy sector was blind-sided by the inclusion of the reviews, which it blames for the year-long political impasse that has stalled investment and cost jobs.

The Clean Energy Council, the sector’s peak body, says it had been given repeated assurances the reviews would be scrapped.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane publicly announced two months ago the government would drop the reviews “to give the industry the certainty it needs to move ahead”.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is calling on the government to defer a review until 2020.

“Business wants a RET deal now and is concerned that a push for two-yearly reviews is derailing negotiations,” director of economics and industry policy John Osborn said.

Mr Butler said the industry believes the deal means nothing if the reviews are included.

“I want to convey the seriousness with which the Labor Party regards this question of a review process,” he said.

There should be no legislation presented to parliament if Labor’s demand is not met, Mr Butler warned.

The government has been trying to slash the RET after a review last year found the legislated 41,000GWh could overreach the policy goal of 20 per cent of all energy coming from renewables by 2020.

The opposition also wants to remove what it says is a last-minute inclusion of wood waste as a renewable source but is prepared to debate that part of the legislation in parliament.

The government believes it won’t need Labor’s support for that inclusion, confident it can win over Senate crossbenchers to get wood waste through.

– AAP

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