RET bill finally makes it through upper house

Legislation lowering Australia’s Renewable Energy Target to 33,000 gigawatt hours by 2020 has passed the upper house.

Legislation lowering Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) to 33,000 gigawatt hours by 2020 has passed the upper house.

AAP reports that the passage of the bill follows a long standoff between the government, which wanted to reduce the pre-existing target of 41,000 gigawatt hours by even more, and the Opposition which favoured a higher target.

The only two senators who voted against the legislation were independents Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie. However, Nationals MP Keith Pitt and Liberal Craig Kelly both voiced their opposition to the change.

Kelly claimed the use of wind energy would do nothing to change climate change.

"It is little different from those in primitive societies that believed that we can change the weather by throwing 2000 virgins down a volcano," he said.

The former RET of 41,000 gigawatt hours was originally intended to represent 20 per cent of total energy usage in 2020. However, the Government decided it wanted to reduce it to 26,000 gigawatt hours because total energy usage is now expected to drop by 2020 and they claimed that figure would represent a ‘true 20 per cent’.

However, the Senate impasse came about because green groups and the Opposition rejected the change.

As the Crookwell Gazette reports, the renewables sector remains sceptical.

Australian Wind Alliance spokesperson Andrew Bray said the government had tried to ‘tear down’ the RET.

“The government was never able to make a convincing argument as to why Australia should be going backwards on renewables as the rest of the world was powering ahead,” he said.

Controversially, the new target includes the burning of wood waste as a renewable source of fuel. The Government claims burning this is better for the environment than allowing it to decompose.

However, Green groups disagree.

"This is a direct subsidy for the destruction of the forests and the creation of yet more greenhouse gases. Native forest biomass is neither clean nor climate friendly,” Bellingen’s Environment Centre’s spokesperson, Caroline Joseph told the Bellingen Courier.