Feb 17 Australia will review its mandatory
renewable energy target (RET), the government said Monday,
sparking concerns among green groups that a weaker target could
pave the way for new coal plants and increased pollution.
The target to ensure Australia generates 20 percent of its
electricity from renewable sources in 2020 has been a boon to
the nation's wind and solar producers, but has been blamed by
the conservative Coalition government for increasing power
"In particular, the review will consider the contribution of
the RET in reducing emissions, its impact on electricity prices
and energy markets, as well as its costs and benefits for the
renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian
households," Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said in a
The target was introduced by the previous conservative
government of John Howard to cut emissions from Australia's
coal-dependant power sector.
But a weakened RET combined with the government's plan to
repeal the carbon tax would shift new energy investments away
from renewable sources to more coal-fired electricity, causing
more pollution and making it hard to meet the climate target,
according to observers.
"With no emission limit and price to make major emitters
responsible for the pollution they cause, sectoral policies like
the RET become much more important in meeting the government's
emission reduction commitments," said John Connor, CEO at
think-tank The Climate Institute.
The Institute calculated that in 2015, the RET would cost
the average household around A$1 ($0.91) per week.
Macfarlane said the outcome of the review was not set,
though Environment Minister Greg Hunt last month proposed to
delay the implementation of the target by five years.
Australia's move comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
warned Indonesians on Sunday that man-made climate change could
threaten their entire way of life, deriding those who doubted
the existence of "perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of
Green groups in Australia saw the appointment of Dick
Warburton, a former Reserve Bank board member who has expressed
doubt that carbon emissions cause climate change, as a clear
sign that the government's intention is to weaken or remove the
The review expert panel will report directly to the prime
minister's office, which Connor said was "skirting legal
requirements for the independent Climate Change Authority to be
the body to conduct the review".
Environment Minister Hunt reiterated on Monday his ambition
to repeal the carbon tax, saying it cost Australia A$7.6 billion
($6.9 bln) in 2012-13.
The RET review report will be presented to the government by
(Reporting by Stian Reklev; Editing by Muralikumar