Opposition Liberal governments in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland have promised to axe their state’s renewable energy targets, responding to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s call for a unified national approach. This comes despite revelations that PM Malcolm Turnbull ignored confidential public service advice that renewables were not responsible for power blackouts in South Australia.
While it is a generally supported notion that a unified federal approach would lead to the most efficient outcomes, Labor state governments across Australia have set more ambitious renewable energy targets than the federal government due to continued uncertainty around federal support for its own target and a view that the current target is not ambitious enough in tackling climate change.
Victoria has set a renewable energy target of 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025; South Australia has a renewable target of 50 per cent by 2025; and Queensland is investigating a 50 per cent renewable target by 2030. The ACT government has committed to 100 per cent renewables by 2020, which has the backing of the Canberra Liberals.
Renewable energy, however, has been subject to a smear campaign by the federal government, and despite evidence Mr Turnbull knew South Australia’s blackouts were not the fault of renewables, he today doubled down, saying federal Labor’s plan to increase renewables would lead to more blackouts, while referring to state renewable targets as “dangerous Labor-Green ideology”.
Emboldened by these attacks, reignited to occur alongside blackout-causing heatwaves, the opposition parties of Victoria, South Australia and Queensland say they will scrap their renewable energy targets if elected.
The news has drawn the ire of environmental groups and opposing sides of politics.
Victorian minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said the opposition’s plan would jeopardise up to $9 billion in investment, particularly in the regions.
She also said NSW coming close to a blackout over the weekend showed that Malcolm Turnbull could not keep using renewables as a scapegoat.
Environment Victoria called the planned scrapping of renewable energy targets as “clean energy sabotage”.
“Saying ‘we’ll leave it to the federal government’ is shirking responsibility,” Environment Victoria campaigns manager Dr Nicholas Aberle said.
“Instead of providing leadership to clean up our economy, Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg have chosen to play political games. Their climate targets are not up to the job, they are beholden to the coal industry, and almost daily members of the federal Coalition are calling for the scrapping of the national renewable energy target.”
In South Australia, which has experienced two major blackouts, opposition leader Steven Marshall has been on the offensive regarding renewables, blaming Labor’s “ideological” renewable targets for poor grid reliability and high energy prices.
“We believe there should be a renewable energy target, but that it’s best set at the federal level,” he said. “We don’t want SA to be at a competitive disadvantage.”
SA energy minister Tom Koutsantonis labelled the move “a complete abdication of leadership” and an “investment-killing decision”.
He said state-based renewable targets were needed because there was no carbon price.
“The market has already factored in a price on carbon, so they won’t invest in new generation, they won’t give us the new supply we need because of the uncertainty,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
Greens SA parliamentary leader Mark Parnell added that Mr Marshall could not accept climate science while calling renewables ideological.
“Liberal leader Steven Marshall makes no sense when in the same breath he accepts the science of climate change, but dismisses action to combat global warming as ideological,” Mr Parnell said.
“If you accept the science of climate change, you accept the urgency. If you accept the urgency, you need to do something about it.”
He said returning power to the “coal-loving Coalition government in Canberra” was a recipe for inaction.
The current federal target is for 33,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy, or about 23.5 per cent of total energy, by 2020.