RET review deals blow to Australia’s solar industry

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The outcome of Australia’s independent review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) has called for it to be closed or significantly downsized in a blow to the country’s multi-billion dollar pipeline.

The panel, led by businessman Dick Warburton has proposed closing the scheme for large-scale projects not yet under construction or that have not yet achieved financial close. As an alternative, it suggests that half of new demand should be met by renewables between now and 2020. Critics say there is no significant new demand forecast.

There was bad news for the small-scale market too. Recommendations for the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES)  also include an abolition option, or a less drastic, but still highly significant reduction in scale. The suggestion that the small-scale RET limit solar installs to less than 10kW would deal a hammer blow to the country’s commercial-scale market. As of April 2014, more than 1.2 million rooftops carried solar panels.

“It is inconceivable that the review could objectively recommend slashing the RET when its own economic modelling showed this would lead to higher power bills in the long run, while at the same time smashing billions of dollars of investment,” said Kane Thornton, acting CEO of the country’s Clean Energy Council.

“The review panel has clearly misunderstood the devastating effect of many of its recommendations. It is particularly naive to suggest that slashing the target would not have a massive impact on businesses that have invested on the basis of a legislated policy scheduled to operate out to 2030, and with over a decade of bipartisan support to date,” he added.

Oz RE review effectively recommends 19th century energy system for 21st century economy. Oz the not so lucky country?

— Damian Ryan (@DamianTCG) August 28, 2014

The review was reportedly subject to late intervention by Prime Minister Tony Abbott who insisted that abolition be included. It was previously thought that the panel was leaning towards a recommended scaling-down. The government has said it will announce its decision on the report’s recommendations in the coming weeks.

“The report’s recommendations could see an extra 189 to 299 million tonnes of carbon pollution released between 2015 and 2030,” said Kellie Caught, WWF-Australia’s national manager for climate change. “That’s not what Australians want. They want pollution to go down not up. They want action to help save the places they love and our amazing wildlife found nowhere else on earth.

“Slashing the Renewable Energy Target will also do long-term damage to clean energy jobs, investment and an innovative new industry,” added Caught.

The Mildura CPV demonstration project will not scale-up to its full 100MW size after uncertainty on the RET forced Silex Systems to postpone financing. 

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