Coalition won’t replace renewables target after it winds down in 2020

‘We will reach the 26% emission reduction target without additional intervention,’ minister says

the national energy guarantee policy has now been junked officially
The national energy guarantee policy has now been junked officially by the cabinet under Scott Morrison. Photograph: Lucy Hughes Jones/AAP

— The energy minister, Angus Taylor, says the Morrison government will not be replacing the renewable energy target “with anything” after it winds down in 2020.

Taylor confirmed there would be no policy to reduce emissions in the electricity sector during an answer to the Greens MP Adam Bandt in question time on Tuesday.

Bandt asked whether the RET could be extended beyond 2020 given there was currently no policy mechanism to replace it, and the lack of settled policy could threaten investment in low emissions technology.

The energy minister flatly rejected the entreaty. “The truth of the matter is the renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020, it reaches its peak in 2020, and we won’t be replacing that with anything.”

Taylor indicated there was no need to have a policy because “we know we will reach the 26% emission reduction target without additional intervention”.

In a column for the Australian Financial Review, published on Tuesday, Taylor hedged slightly more, declaring “emissions reductions are the least of our problems, with every prospect we will reach the 26% reduction below 2005 levels ahead of schedule and without interventions”.

Those declarations from the minister contradict advice from the Energy Security Board. In August, the ESB told federal and state energy ministers that if the national energy guarantee wasn’t implemented, the national electricity market would “fall short of the emissions reduction target of 26% below 2005 levels”.

The Coalition’s plan to 2030 was to replace the RET with the national energy guarantee, which imposed an emissions reduction target for electricity.

But Malcolm Turnbull abandoned the Neg as one of his last acts in the prime ministership, and the policy has now been junked officially by the cabinet under Scott Morrison’s leadership.

Taylor says the Morrison government is now focused exclusively on lowering power prices and will pursue regulatory interventions to achieve that end.

But while some government conservatives routinely equate renewables with higher power prices, there is evidence that a big build of renewable capacity contracted through the RET is currently lowering wholesale prices by increasing supply to the market.

Last December, the Australian Energy Market Commission predicted wholesale electricity costs would fall in 2018-19 and 2019-20, with a reduction in the order of 12%, due to approximately 5,300 MW of new committed and expected generation entering the national electricity market – the majority of which is renewable generation (4,900 MW).

The energy minister has also criticised a proposal by the ALP to adopt an emissions reduction target for electricity of 45%. Taylor told parliament on Tuesday: “The result will be we will all pay more for our electricity”.

But new modelling from Frontier Economics undertaken for the Australian Council of Social Service (Acoss) and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, published by Guardian Australia on Tuesday, indicates otherwise. It predicts power prices for households would fall by 2030 under four different scenarios – business as usual and emissions reduction targets of 26%, 45% and 65%.

It says that under the Coalition’s now abandoned 26% target, the average saving to households would be 20.8% while under the 45% scenario, which is Labor’s target, the average saving would be 18.3%.

The Morrison government says Australia will remain a signatory to the Paris climate agreement but it is unclear how compliance with an economy-wide emissions target can be achieved in the absence of a policy roadmap.

Recent polling suggests voters are more worried about climate change than they were 12 months ago. A study tracking voter sentiment for more than a decade, funded first by the Climate Institute and now by the Australia Institute, finds 73% (up from 66% in 2017) of respondents are concerned about climate change, and a clear majority, 68%, believes the government should set domestic targets to comply with our Paris commitments.


by Katharine Murphy | The Guardian