Business groups have called on Australia’s federal government and opposition to come to an agreement on the country’s Renewable Energy Targets (RET) to provide certainty for the renewables industry, but solar campaigners have said proposed targets are too low.
The business groups acknowledged the “goodwill” of the government in moving the target up to 32,000GWh by 2020 and the opposition’s move to 33,500GWh.
They also called on the two parties to compromise and agree a position at 33,000GWh.
The groups said: “That will provide a stable bipartisan basis for investment in energy supply including renewables, conventional energy and energy dependent industry.”
They added that failing to agree on the RET would continue to block investment in renewable energy generation and in electricity supply. It would also impose significant unnecessary costs on industry that relies on electricity.
The signatory peak organisations included the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Aluminium Council, the Bureau of Steel Manufacturers of Australia, the Cement Industry Federation, the Energy Users Association of Australia and the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council.
Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten told ABC Radio on Monday: "Even though we want a higher Renewable Energy Target than the government, we are prepared to meet somewhere in the middle because there is billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs on the line."
However, John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council said that a 33,000GWh target by 2020 would not result in the building of Big Solar capacity and the target would quickly be taken up by wind alone. He claimed Coalition politicians opposed to wind power are supporting a deal that will double wind generation and achieve little for Big Solar.
Grimes said: “By delivering maximum uncertainty they have forced the wind industry to accept peace at any price, as large-scale investment plummets by more than 90% since last year.”
He said that by 2017/18 when Big Solar is competing at scale there will be little space left to reach the target.
He added: “This is a poor outcome for Australia. It locks us into a single technology and ignores Australia’s solar potential.
“The Abbott Government and our biggest polluters have been determined to smash large-scale renewables.
“We need Big Solar built before 2020, and all political parties must commit to at least 50% renewables by 2030.”