​Proposed RET changes welcomed by Portland Alcoa smelter

Yesterday
the federal government announced its proposed changes to the renewable Energy
Target, which were welcomed by Alcoa’s Portland smelter.

Industry
minister Ian Macfarlane yesterday told the National Press Club that the government
would support a change to a “true” 20 per cent RET target for 2020.

There would
also be exemptions for energy-intensive industries such as aluminium, cement
and nickel production from the scheme.

“It won’t be a 27 per cent renewable
energy target, it will be 20 per cent renewable energy target,” Fairfax reports Macfarlane as saying.

The 20 per cent target will mean a goal revised from an earlier target of 41,000 gigawatt hours of energy from renewable sources by 2020 to about 26,000 gigawatt hours. 

There has
been pressure within the Coalition, led by Wannon MP Dan Tehan, to exempt aluminium producers from the RET.

Tehan’s electorate
includes Alcoa’s Portland smelter, which has been hampered by bills estimated
at $10 million annually under the RET, as well as low prices and strong competition from
overseas producers.

“This is
great news for Portland and the surrounding region,” the plant’s manager, Peter Chellis, told The Australian.

“We are
doing everything we can to make the smelter internationally competitive and a
100 per cent RET exemption helps us to compete on a level playing field.”

Tehan said
there must be negotiations with the opposition for the changes, but was
confident a workable outcome which “will
protect jobs in our traditional manufacturing industries” could be
achieved.

The
aluminium exemption was good news though, said the backbencher.

“For my electorate, for Portland Aluminium,
that means a saving of $10 million in 2017, and given that we’ve seen two
aluminium smelters close recently, including Point Henry this year, this is
welcome news,” he told the ABC.

The Portland smelter employs about 540 full-time and 180
contractors, and exports over $500 million worth of product to Asia each year.

Image: AAP