Half of electricity generated will be renewable by 2030, under a new federal Labor commitment to clean energy that leader Bill Shorten says will tackle climate change, create jobs, drive investment and reduce power bills.
A media release from Mr Shorten provided scant details on measures to be adopted to reach the target, though said the policy would distinguish Labor from the Liberal Party.
“There is an absolutely clear cut choice between Labor and the Liberals when it comes to renewable energy,” Mr Shorten said.
“Tony Abbott has done everything in his power to destroy renewable energy in Australia.
“Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey hate windfarms; Labor will ensure renewable energy is a big part of the future for our country.”
While Shorten rightly sticks the boot into the current government, the importance of bipartisanship on long-term energy policy cannot be understated.
The first renewable energy target, implemented under the Howard government, enjoyed bipartisan support that saw a flourishing renewables sector. However, this was quickly undone when the Abbott government subjected the RET to reviews that undermined confidence and crippled the sector, followed by a cut from 41,000 gigawatt hours by 2020 to 33,000 GWh.
“Confidence for investors is the key to success for large-scale renewable energy,” Mr Shorten said.
“Mr Abbott has tried his best to wreck it, but confidence must be rebuilt and Labor is committed to establishing consensus for an expanded renewable energy industry by 2030.”
The move was welcomed by the Clean Energy Council and Electrical Trades Union.
“The Australian Labor Party must be congratulated for taking such strong leadership and recognising the enormous role that renewable energy can play in Australia’s future, both in terms of dealing with the challenge of climate change and creating economic opportunities,” Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said.
“A much longer-term commitment to renewable energy will ensure that projects can continue to attract necessary finance up to and beyond 2020, and that exciting new technologies like large-scale solar, geothermal and ocean energy have the opportunity to contribute to Australia’s energy mix as they become increasing competitive over the next decade.”
Mr Thornton said the goal was “entirely achievable”.
“Of course an increased commitment to renewable energy needs to be accompanied by a comprehensive energy and climate change policy that can facilitate the retirement of Australia’s ageing coal-fired generation fleet and reform the energy system to support the connection of increasing amounts of renewable energy into the energy network,” he said.
Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks said the move heralded the return of leadership in renewable energy and climate change.
“In just two years, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has overseen uncertainty and job losses in the burgeoning renewable energy sector, with senseless attacks apparently aimed at destroying a growth industry that already employs tens of thousands of Australians,” Mr Hicks said.
“Today’s announcement comes in stark contrast to that approach, and marks the arrival of a real vision for the renewables sector.”
The Australian Industry Group, however, was cautious, saying that a 50 per cent renewables target was unlikely to pass “the least-cost test” in regards to reducing emissions.
“Imposing higher costs than necessary would be wasteful and would detract from the economy’s ability to grow and provide the well-paid jobs of the future which are needed if we are to continue to lift domestic living standards,” AIG chief executive Innes Willox said.