Solar industry backs Labor’s RET negotiation withdraw. But the Australian Solar Council warns if the government doesn’t change its position on the renewable energy target, it will change the government.
Labor has quit its negotiations with the Abbott government about Australia’s renewable energy target saying there is “no prospect of reaching an agreement”.
In an escalation of the high stakes clash over Australia’s energy future, the opposition’s environment spokesman, Mark Butler, has written to Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane to end discussions that were aimed at restoring bipartisan support for the renewable energy policy.
In a letter to Mr Macfarlane on Tuesday, Mr Butler said that the government’s plan to dramatically scale back the target had not budged throughout weeks of negotiations.
He said Labor would not “stand by and watch” billions of dollars in investment in Australia’s renewable energy sector head overseas because of deep cuts to the target.
Mr Butler wrote that while Labor was committed to restoring bipartisan consensus, it “will not support certainty if that means certainty of destroying the renewable energy sector”.
“Considering the Government’s fundamental position remains a 40 per cent cut to the RET, I do not see there being any value in continuing discussions at this point in time,” the letter says.
The parties had been in talks since Mr Macfarlane confirmed three weeks ago the government wanted to wind back the target to a so-called “real 20 per cent”.
That would be done by reducing the agreed green energy target of 41,000 gigawatt hours of baseline power by 2020 to about 26,000 gigawatt hours.
It is understood Labor had been seeking to negotiate an agreement that would set the target in the mid-to-high thirties as a compromise to try to restore investment certainty for the clean energy industry.
The $20 billion alternative energy sector has been plunged into uncertainty since the government launched a review of the target, headed by businessman and climate sceptic Dick Warburton.
Mr Butler acknowledged on Tuesday that walking away from negotiations would not return certainty to an industry that was relying on bipartisan support for Australia’s target to attract continued investment.
But he said the gap between the government and Labor on clean energy policy was simply too great for the parties to reach agreement.
“Labor held a number of talks with Abbott government ministers to explore any options we could find to get this policy back on the rails and restore investor confidence,” Mr Butler told Fairfax Media.
“But it is clear from the discussions that the Abbott government remains committed to making deep cuts to the renewable energy target that will be enormously damaging to the industry.
“On that basis Labor has reached the view that there’s no value in continuing these discussions because there is no prospect of reaching an agreement.”