Renewable energy target under scrutiny

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By Payton Booij

Mid May the Solar Power conference kicked off at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Amid the buzz of the latest technology and innovation, I talked to Lindsey Souter, a member of the Solar Citizens group who explained to me their concern in the upcoming review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET). Souter explained RET is a policy that helps people go solar.

Solar Citizens are worried that Tony Abbott will cut or remove it completely in the upcoming review. They are a community organisation that represents the 2,000,000 families already living under a solar panel or using solar hot water as well as anyone interested.

Solar Citizens have found that people are taking up solar in order to take control of their power bills, as well as the environmental reasons. The big power companies are threatened by Australians generating their own power and are trying to make it more difficult to go solar.

RET is a Federal Government policy designed to ensure that at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. RET consists of large and small scale schemes.

Large scale consists of support and incentive for the creation of more renewable energy power stations. The small scale renewable energy scheme encourages owners to install small systems such roof top solar, solar water heaters, heat pumps and small-scale wind and hydro systems.

According Renew Economy, “the Australian government has nailed its colours to the mast on the issue of renewable energy by choosing manufacturing chief and climate change denier Dick Warburton to head its review into the renewable energy target.”

The last review was conducted by Climate Change Authority which rejected appeals to reduce the target. All members on the coming review panel are cold in regards to renewable energy schemes so the prospects are looking bleak for the continuation of the RET. Removal of the subsidy for renewables may be preferred by the solar industry to remove the stigma it’s only a subsidy driven market or the removal could bring the industry to a screeching halt.

Origin Energy has stated they want to reduce or remove the RET. CEO Grant King claimed that Australia was already at 16% of national demand and to reflect 20% the RET should be scaled back or removed.

The problem for the big energy companies is the renewables are pushing black coal and gas out of the market. Innovation into battery technologies would ensure solar could be used without a need for the back up grid supply. The grid provides the constant power available for consumers and also solar power customers during night time and cloud cover. Currently, battery technology is not cost effective enough to be economically feasible.

The concern for hitting the 20% too quickly sounds like a positive thing rather then a problem. Australia has an abundance of sunshine, a resource we should embrace and be leaders in a growing solar industry.

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