While renewable energy advocates have welcomed the Federal Government committing to a Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 33,000 gigawatt hours (GWh), some remain sceptical about the scaling down of the original target of 41,000 GWh.
The original target was set in 2008, representing 20 per cent demand for renewable electricity by 2020.
The critics are also sceptical of the time it has taken to reach the agreement, saying it has taken a “terrible toll” on wind energy in Australia.
Australian Wind Alliance spokesperson Andrew Bray said he was relieved the impasse was over.
“(But) the 18 month process has taken a terrible toll on wind energy in Australia. This tortuous process could have been concluded at least six months ago,” Mr Bray said.
“The government threw everything they had at tearing down the RET and there’s no denying wind energy has taken a big cut from the original target.”
Mr Bray said Australia was going backwards on renewable energy.
“The government was never able to make a convincing argument as to why Australia should be going backwards on renewables as the rest of the world was powering ahead,” he said.
“With large power companies like AGL signalling that they will be moving out of coal in coming years we need to be sure we have the renewable sources ready to replace it.
“We think 50 percent from all renewable sources by 2030 is a responsible target.”
Mr Bray said the time lag in finalising the scheme has had a local impact on jobs and farmers.
“The biggest local impact has been on construction jobs and on farmers. Hundreds of local jobs were created through the construction of the Taralga and Gullen Range Wind farms and these workers now face a 12-month hiatus while new projects progress to construction stage,” he said.
“Many local firms have invested heavily in skills and equipment to be able to participate in these projects. That investment will lie idle until projects start to proceed again. There are farming communities who should be enjoying financial benefits of wind farms now – through lease payments to individual farmers and community fund grants.”
However, Mr Bray said the RET commitment should see some local wind farm projects resume.
“While we didn’t manage to achieve the 41,000 GWh target we sought, it looks likely that we will at least have achieved a resolution and a resumption of new wind farm projects,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed by another local clean energy advocate, Charlie Prell.
“It will certainly kick-start two to three projects in the wider Capital Region, though it will be harder for larger scale solar projects to get any of that business,” Mr Prell said.
Federal Member for Hume Angus Taylor said the 41,000 GWh target was unrealistic. He also made a strong statement that renewable energy proponents should take community opinion into account when proposing new developments.
“The 41,000 GWh target was never realistically achievable and would have unnecessarily driven up electricity prices, so it is good to see the reduction in the target to a more achievable level,” he said.
“Achieving the new target will be extremely challenging and will require close consultation with local communities which may be impacted.
“The risk with the RET is that we create a ‘technology monoculture’ – the entire target is filled by wind, without solar, hydro or other technologies. I would like to see a mix of technologies deployed, and the government will be working closely with developers and retailers to support a range of technologies.
“I implore all retailers and developers to focus on locations for new developments where there is genuine and widespread support from host landowners and neighbours.”
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