Australian government passes reduced 33,000GWh Renewable Energy Target

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Tony Abbott’s government has finally approved the reduction of the country's Renewable Energy Target (RET) from 41,650GWh to 33,000GWh by 2020 after 15 months of uncertainty for the solar sector.

There have been no changes to the small-scale solar (<100kW) and solar hot water schemes, which remain “open for business”, according to John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council.

Meanwhile the RET is not being phased out early.

Prior to the government’s RET approval, Abbott said he wanted to cut the RET “as far as the current Senate would allow”, causing concern that the RET deal would be delayed further, but yesterday the 33,000GWh target was approved.

Nevertheless, Grimes said: “I am afraid this is not the end of the federal government's attacks on the solar industry. Indeed, the Prime Minister could not have been clearer about his government's intention to roll back all renewables. Now is the time to get out and sell solar.”

However, in a surprise change of tone, a recent letter from the government announced intentions to support large-scale solar. Similarly, on local radio last week, environment minister Greg Hunt said that an approved RET would result in “increased and enhanced support for solar, particularly large-scale solar”.

Tony Abbott also recently said he found wind farms “ugly and noisy” and expressed concern over the impact of wind farms on communities. This came amid controversy over leaked government plans to appoint a “wind farm commissioner”, which is seen as a barrier to wind developers in favour of solar.

The same leaked plans also revealed government intentions to write to the Clean Energy Finance Council (CEFC) to ensure “significantly increased uptake of large-scale solar and energy efficiency”.

In response to the letter supporting large-scale solar, Grimes said: “While the letter is long on rhetoric, it is short on tangible support for solar. If the government is serious about supporting large-scale solar they would provide tangible support.

“They would restore the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) funding to help big solar; AUS$750m (US$582 million) in funding they slashed last year.”

PV Tech interviewed John Grimes last month over what the RET compromise means for solar.

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