Australians continue to support the RET

Australia’s Climate Institute released its “Climate of the Nation 2014” report today, in which it takes the temperature of the nation’s opinions regarding climate change and renewable energy. The survey showed that 76% of Australians support renewable energy and believe that “state governments should be putting in place incentives for more renewable energy such as wind farms.” Only 10% disagreed with that statement.

Of the renewables mix, solar, wind and hydro were the most popular forms of new generating capacity. On the other hand, coal, nuclear and gas were the least popular.

Importantly, support for the RET – which mandates that 20% of Australia’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 – remains high, even when the surveyors framed the question in context of arguments used by opponents to the RET, namely that it is driving up electricity bills.

The survey found that 29% of Australian of Australians want to see the RET increased above 30% by 202, 31% at between 20% and 30% and 11% to keep the target at 20%. Only 4% wanted to see a decrease in renewable share with 5% wanting it scrapped altogether.

“Support for renewable energy like wind and solar has remained remarkably resilient,” said John Conner, the CEO of the Climate Institute. “There have been increasing attacks on renewable energy by state and now federal politicians but also energy companies as their fossil fuel based business models lose market share to clean energy technologies.”

The RET is currently under review, with the review itself being chaired by businessman Dick Warburton, who has previously described himself as being skeptical of climate change. It is the mechanism under which Australia’s federal subsidies for small commercial and residential solar operates and that underpins the development of utility scale solar.

The development of new utility scale PV is currently frozen because of uncertainty regarding the RET going forward.

NGOs campaign for carbon tax and the RET

In response to the Climate Institute survey results, the NGO has teamed up with the Australian Your Climate Coalition to launch a “Stop the Dinosaurs” campaign, to push back against changes to the any changes to the RET. The campaign is being spearheaded by John Hewson, the former leader of the conservative Liberal Party, currently in government in a coalition.

Hewson, an advocate of free market principles, chose the launch of the campaign to criticize the government’s “Direct Action” policy – with which it proposes replacing Australia’s carbon tax. Direct Action would pay polluters in Australia’s electricity generation sector to take measures to reduce emissions.

“One of the tragedies of the Government’s proposed alternative policy is that it shifts the burden of pollution reduction from polluters to taxpayers at a time when we are told the Budget is in crisis,” Hewson was quoted as having said by the site RenewEconomy.

As a part of Direct Action, the federal government had said that it would support a rooftop solar push, however in the latest budget the funding for the "Million Solar Roofs" scheme had disappeared.

On July 1, the next upper house of Australia’s Parliament will sit and it is likely to pass the government’s repeal of climate tax legislation and Direct Action. Whether the RET will remain is yet to be seen.