Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg says the Government has no plans to scrap its renewable energy targets (RET), despite internal criticism and concerns US President Donald Trump may withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement.
The Federal Government has set a target of producing 33,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy by 2020, although this was downgraded from 41,000 gigawatts hours under the Tony Abbott government.
“We have no plans to change that renewable energy target for 2020,” Mr Frydenberg told ABC News.
“It does have an impact on electricity prices, but it is a much more moderate target than what we are seeing being proposed in Parliament by our political opponents.
“It’s a real challenge for us to meet that target and I want people to be under no misapprehension about that — it is going to be challenging to meet that target.”
Mr Frydenberg dismissed calls from former prime minister Mr Abbott to make cancelling the RET the first order of business for 2017.
Mr Abbott — along with a number of other conservative MPs — has claimed the RET will destroy heavy industry in South Australia due to rising electricity costs.
“The RET is not cost free but large, heavy industry is actually exempt,” Mr Frydenberg said.
The Federal Government ratified the Paris climate change agreement in November before Mr Trump’s inauguration.
Mr Trump vowed to cancel the agreement in early 2016, claiming it would give foreign bureaucrats control of how much energy the US uses. He can cancel the executive order used by former US president Barack Obama to sign the agreement and bypass the Republican-controlled Senate.
“I’m not going to hypothesise about what Donald Trump does, but in terms of our international commitments, we have committed to a 26-28 per cent target,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“Dare I say it — we are doing very well in terms of trying to meet our 2030 target as well as our 2020 target which we are on track to beat by more than 224 million tonnes.”
The Energy Minister’s comments come after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Australia was known as “an honourable negotiator”.
“We don’t sign agreements to pull out of them,” he told ABC Radio on Monday. “We go into them; we negotiate with the belief that, if you sign a piece of paper, you should be sticking to it.”