Review calls for Renewable Energy Target cuts: what it means

By Michael Hopkin

As a result, it says investment in new renewable energy power stations will not be needed to meet Australia’s declining energy demands, and that solar incentives for homeowners, while successful, are an expensive way to cut greenhouse emissions.

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) is split into two parts: one that aims to boost large-scale renewable power, such as wind and solar farms, and another that encourages households to buy domestic-scale technology like solar panels.

The Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme – the part of the RET that promotes domestic-scale renewable energy – offers credits to homeowners for installing any of a range of devices including solar hot water, solar power or wind turbines.

The other issue with widespread uptake of renewable energy is the matter of grid reliability – it will be necessary to store and then release power to smooth out the supply, ensuring that electricity is available even when it’s not sunny or windy.

Renewable energy has also delivered some notable successes at a state level – such as in South Australia, where wind farms now supply more than a quarter of the state’s electricity.

Some analysts, such as the Australian National University’s Andrew Blakers, argue that Australia can get to 100% renewable energy. “If the federal government leaves the RET alone, Australia will be on track for an all-renewable electricity system by mid-century,” Blakers wrote.

From 2020 on, ACIL Allen forecasts that households would pay lower power bills if the current Renewable Energy Target is retained.

As part of the Government’s RET Review Call for Submissions Paper it was estimated that the Renewable Energy Target contributed approximately 4% to household electricity bills in the 2013-14 period.

We asked Conversation readers for their questions about the review, what it means for Australia’s renewable energy industry, and your household power bills.

The ACT government, for example, is pushing ahead with a plan to source 200 megawatts of wind power, as part of a plan to make 90% of the territory’s electricity renewable, and has also invested in large-scale solar plants such as the Royalla Solar Farm.

Deloitte forecasts that households would pay higher power bills if the current Renewable Energy Target is retained.

The review says that although the Renewable Energy Target has largely been successful, it has imposed “significant costs on the economy” and has “contributed to a large surplus of generation capacity”.

RMIT University energy researcher Alan Pears explains that the cost has two components: the cost for retailers to buy renewable energy certificates (which pushes up electricity prices), and the downward impact of renewable energy on wholesale electricity prices (which pushes prices down).

Opinion is divided over how feasible a 100% renewable electricity system is: some say it’s eminently achievable with the aid of technology already used for hydroelectric power; others say it’s not so simple; while still others say that it’s easier than it sounds, given the right mix of different renewables.

Short answer: cuts to investment in renewable power stations, and the scrapping of incentives for solar panels.

The long-awaited review of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target has been released and, as widely predicted, has recommended winding back or even scrapping the various parts of the scheme.

Read more here: Business Spectator


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