2014 – A year in the life of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target


Life isn’t easy for environmental policies these days.  It seems every one of them is up for constant negotiation.  Sometimes it feels like some policies are always under review.  Take Australia’s Renewable Energy Target, for instance.

The policy, first initiated by the Liberal government under bipartisan agreement in 2001, aims to increase the proportion of renewable energy contributing to Australia’s electricity supply.  The current target of at least 20 per cent renewable electricity by 2020 was set in 2009 by the then Labor Government.  Since then there has been very little that this poor old policy could rely on – not the types of energy sources included under its name, or the kinds of energy users that would have to contribute to its goal, or even the administration of the scheme.  In spite of apparent ‘bipartisan support’ for the scheme politicians fuel the flames created by industries that the target should be lowered or that some industries are suffering and should be excluded from the scheme.  In turn, government continually reviews the scheme, creating greater uncertainty for Australian renewable companies.

2014 – A rundown….

Previous years have been bad, but 2014 seems to have been even worse for the unfortunate Renewable Energy Target…

  • 17 February 2014 – The Federal Government announces the 2014 Review of the RET.  The review is to be headed by Dick Warburton, an anthropogenic climate change sceptic.  The review should have been done by the Climate Change Authority, as it is bound by legislation to undertake biennial reviews of the scheme.
  • 31 December 2014 – The year ends.  No formal decision has been made surrounding the RET’s future.

And meanwhile, in the real world…

Life continued for the renewable energy industry in Australia, albeit in fits and starts.  There were some high points, and there were some low points…

  • Bloomberg Investment states a 70% drop in large-scale Australian renewable energy investment in the year ending September 2014.
  • IFM investment group accepts a $685 million write-down on their Pacific Hydro plant, citing uncertainty resulting from the Warburton Review, reduced electricity demand and changes to tax rates.
  • Solar giant Suntech closes its Australian Research and Development base, citing uncertainty in policy as a key factor in its decision.
  • Silex Systems announces its $420 million solar project near Mildura would not go ahead.
  • An Australian wind turbine producer, Keppel Prince Engineering, announces it will axe 100 jobs (although the final number was 85).
  • The long-running Sustainable Energy Association, formerly the Western Australian Sustainable Energy Association, closes its doors citing falling memberships and lobbying difficulties.

There was, however, some good news

The best stories show Australia’s passion for renewable energy and enthusiasm for its development does not wane, even in the face of policy uncertainty.

  • Carnegie Wave Energy finally announces its CETO 5 unit is up and running off Garden Island in Western Australia.
  • Australian solar researchers at the University of New South Wales smash solar photovoltaic efficiency records, converting over 40% of sunlight hitting a solar system to electricity.
  • The CSIRO shows Australian innovation in solar won’t be left behind, developing solar technology to generate the highest temperature ‘supercritical’ steam outside of using fossil fuel resources, and working with Melbourne and Monash universities to develop ‘printable’ solar panels.
  • One of Australia’s most iconic landmarks (and often home to the Prime Minister) Kirribilli House is to be given the gift of solar, courtesy of Sydney-based church leaders at Common Grace, with the Australian Solar Council footing the bill for its installation.

Fingers crossed 2015 will see better days for the RET – and for all renewable energy enthusiasts in Australia.  What would you like to see happen with renewable energy in 2015?

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