Compromise on large-scale renewables in Australia increasingly likely

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The future of the large-scale renewables sector in Australia has been in doubt for some years, with the Federal Government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott having undermined and then sought to dramatically reduce the RET. Government attempts to legislate a change to RET has been stalled with the government requiring support from minor political parties or the Labor Party to affect the change.

While negotiations between the two parties over a RET reduction have been in deadlock, Australia’s large scale renewable sector was itself effectively stalled, as uncertainty drove investors away. The RET underpins utility scale renewable developer in Australia as it mandated that electricity suppliers source 41 GWh of supply from renewable sources by 2020.

The Labor opposition has now announced a compromise position which would see the RET reduced to 33,500 GWh. If the government agrees to this then stalled renewable development Down Under could burst back to life, albeit at a reduced level.

The Labor position comes at the behest of Australia’s Clean Energy Council (CEC), which made the call for the reduced 33,500 GWh target last week.

“Labor is acting on the advice of the renewable energy industry, the CEC and the experts in reaching this decision,” said leader of the opposition Bill Shorten in a statement today. “Every day this matter drags on, more jobs are lost and every day the uncertainty continues, projects are shelved and future jobs are lost.”

Shorten noted that investment in renewables had fallen 88% since the election of the conservative Abbott government.

The RET had previously enjoyed bipartisan support.

“Labor will use this target (33,500 GWh) as a floor and if elected, acting on the advice of the sector, will increase the RET out to 2020 to bolster investment, specifically in large scale solar.” Labor has committed to supporting the small-scale solar incentive program, which supports the country’s burgeoning commercial and residential rooftop market. In 2014 Australia installed over 800 MW in distributed PV.

The Government had initially flagged scrapping or vastly reducing the rooftop solar scheme, however it has since backed down from the unpopular decision.

No PV power plants

The Australian Solar Council has labeled Labor Party position as being a “forced compromise” adding that, “it will not deliver for large-scale solar.”

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