Energy review may lead to higher power bills

SPECULATION is rife the Federal Government will move to reduce the Renewable Energy Target which a report has shown will slug households with higher electricity prices and stunt the growth of the fledgling renewable energy industry.

A review of the target, which helps subsidise household solar panels and large-scale renewable projects, is expected to be handed to government this month.

The authors of the review have already been labelled by Australian Solar Council chief executive John Grimes as biased towards abolishing the target, including report chair Dick Warburton, a prominent climate change sceptic.

"The whole process has been prejudiced from the outset," Mr Grimes said.

What happens without renewable energy targets:

  • $10 billion profit to fossil fuel power producers, which includes $2 billion to EnergyAustralia, $1.5 billion to Origin, and $1 billion to AGL.

  • No decline in electricity prices, in fact wholesale prices would be forecast to go up by 15% by 2030.

  • Additional pollution costs of more than $14 billion by 2030, with 150 million tonnes of extra carbon pollution.

  • New South Wales standing to lose more than $2 billion in foregone investment in renewable energy projects.

While Finance Minister Matthias Cormann was reported yesterday saying the government was committed to the renewable energy target, it's understood it hopes to at least diminish it to a so-called "real 20%" energy mix, which takes into account hydro power and household solar as well as large-scale renewable projects.

Mr Grimes said moving to diminish the target would mean support for small-scale solar would be reduced by a third overnight, and households would compete for a "limited" support program for solar.

Meanwhile, a report commissioned by the Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation and WWF-Australia shows a reduction in the renewable energy target would provide power companies with windfall profits while lumping households with higher pollution and higher electricity costs.

"The point is that the companies have been cloaking their argument in the idea that it would be good for their customers, and it's impossible to see how it's good for their customers," Olivia Kember from the Climate Institute said.

"The customers don't benefit from higher bills and they're also on the hook for all the extra carbon pollution and the loss of investment."

She said the government's instability on the target was already putting plans for large renewable projects in ice.

"You're saying to investors you can't rely on a stable investment environment when you're trying to build large-scale wind and solar projects."

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