RET stand-off continues

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) remains undecided and
the Government may start to negotiate with crossbenchers to resolve the
impasse.

The ABC reports that the government does not want to
compromise from its preferred target of sourcing 32,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of
energy from renewable energy sources by 2020.

At present the target is 41,000 GWh, a figure which was
originally intended to represent 20 per cent of Australia’s energy usage.

However the Government wanted to reduce the target to 26,000
GWh, on the grounds that, because of declining energy usage, that figure
represents a ‘true 20 per cent’.

The figure of 32,000 GWh represents a compromise (from 26,000 Gwh) by the government and it does not want to shift any further.

However, as Energy Matters reports, Labor and the renewables
industry are pushing for a figure in the mid-to-high 30,000s.

The government wants to have a deal completed by the end of
March to avoid fines being imposed on emissions-intensive industries. As such, Industry
Minister Ian Macfarlane may attempt to negotiate with the Senate crossbench.

“I’m saying if we can reach a deal and get it done then
it’s possible to backdate this legislation and on that basis there won’t be the
requirement for industries to make that payment,” he told the ABC.

“But that doesn’t mean the deal can’t be done in April
or May or June and the Government consider, depending on the agreement of the
crossbenchers, to a backdating which may see the money refunded to
industry.”

The Australian Solar Council was excluded from the latest
negotiations. The Council’s CEO, John Grimes said the Government was not
serious about reaching an agreement.

“The Australian Solar Council was specifically excluded from
today’s meeting. Now, we have been critical of the Abbott Government but a
serious, mature government – a good government – talks to its critics as well
as its friends,” Grimes said.

As the SMH reports, Clean Energy Council chief
executive Kane Thornton said a deal was still possible.

“We’re encouraged by the fact the government and Labor
remain committed to resolving the issue,” she said.

“Clearly there’s some way to go but we remain
optimistic.”