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Australia to investigate renewable energy target

Feb. 18, 2014 at 12:02 PM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The Australian government is reviewing the country's renewable energy target, which calls for 20 percent of Australia's electricity to be generated by clean energy sources by 2020.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt Monday said the review "will advise the government on the progress of the renewable energy target, the importance of investment certainty and any measures which can help ease pressure on electricity prices."

The administration of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who took office in September, argues the market has changed since the target was set in 2010 and now there is an oversupply of electricity, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

"Australia's diversity of energy sources is one of our greatest national strengths. Renewable energy has contributed to the energy mix, but we must ensure that the program is operating effectively," Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane said in a news release Monday.

The review, Macfarlane said, will consider the contribution of the renewable energy target -- known as the RET -- in reducing emissions, its impact on electricity prices and energy markets, as well as its costs and benefits for the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households.

John Connor, chief executive of The Climate Institute called for the review to focus on the original objective of the policy, which was to reduce emissions from Australia's power sector. Under current settings, the institute says, the RET will deliver around 76 million tons of emission reductions by 2020.

"Australia's power sector emissions are among the highest in the world," Connor said in a news release Monday. "Reducing emissions brings economic and environment benefits and these must be clearly examined or the outcomes of the review will lack balance and credibility."

The Abbott administration has scrapped most of the climate change policy from the previous administration of Julia Gillard.

The government has appointed a four-member panel to carry out the RET review, headed by Dick Warburton, former Australian Reserve Bank board governor and a self-confessed climate change sceptic.

The review is expected to be submitted to the government by the middle of this year.

"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 in a news release, noting currently 5 million Australians have solar power and 3 million want solar in the next five years.

If the RET policy is scrapped, Grimes said, 8,000 jobs could be lost.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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