CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Australia's renewable energy target appears to be on the table following Prime Minister Tony Abbott's decision to review the country's energy policy.
Abbott announced Wednesday he will head an energy policy task force that will be "looking at new options to reduce the costs of energy." The review is expected to be completed in June.
Australia's Renewable Energy Target scheme, enacted in 2009, requires energy retailers and large customers to source a proportion of their energy from renewable sources. It calls for 20 percent of the country's power generation to come from renewable sources by 2020.
Abbott said "we support sensible use of renewable energy," but said circumstances had changed.
"We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower ... cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages ... what we will be looking at is what we need to do to get power prices down significantly," the prime minister said.
Grant King, who heads Australia's largest utility, Origin Energy, has said renewable energy, because of its higher cost, was adding 14 percent to the average consumer's power bill and up to 30 percent for larger users, the Australian newspaper reports.
The Australian Energy Market Commission says the renewable energy target -- known as RET -- comprises less than 1 percent of the average household electricity bill.
Climate Institute chief executive Erwin Jackson was cited by the newspaper as saying that any significant tampering with the country's renewable energy target would erode investor confidence in clean energy and in the broader electricity market.
"For a cost of 80 cents a week for the average household, the RET has attracted billions of dollars in investment and cut millions of tons of emissions," Jackson said. "That's a pretty good investment."
Australia accounts for about 1.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, but ranks at the top of developed nations on a per-capita basis because of its heavy reliance on coal for the production of electricity.
Australia's coalition government, which took office in September, has vowed to scrap the carbon tax, which went into effect in July 2012, and replace it with what it calls a direct action policy, which would offer financial incentives to businesses to reduce emissions.
Abbott's administration has also scrapped most of the climate change policy from the previous Labor administration.
Noting that affordable energy ought to be one of Australia's "comparable advantages," Abbott on Wednesday said that "almost everything that's happened over the last few years, starting with the carbon tax, has conspired to put our power prices through the roof."