Why we support the Clean Energy Council's Renewable Energy Target

SUPPORTERS’ BRIEF

How to respond to questions about Labor’s decision to support the Clean Energy Council’s position on the Renewable Energy Target

1. What is today’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) announcement?

The Australian Labor Party acts to protect jobs, diversity and growth in Australia's renewable energy sector by backing Clean Energy Council's RET goal of 33,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2020. 

2. Why did Labor come to this decision?

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's reckless attack on the renewable energy industry last year caused investment in hydro, wind and solar energy to collapse. Labor fought hard to stop Abbott slashing the RET altogether after the collapse of bipartisanship prompted the Climate Change Authority to advise there's no longer a chance to sustain a 41,000GWh RET. 

The industry wants to continue to invest and create new solutions and suggested ending the impasse by reducing the RET to 33,500GWh by 2020.

Labor has listened to industry in the hope of reaching agreement with the Government to end the investment freeze and uncertainty hanging over the industry. Labor simply can't stand by and do nothing while this industry collapses.

Today’s announcement shows Labor is committed to working with the renewable energy sector to stop the damage. We are supporting the position of the Clean Energy Council and experts in the field of renewables.

3. What will today’s RET announcement achieve? 

The Clean Energy Council says investment in large solar and wind farms should double in the next five years and 20% of Australia's electricity will come from from renewable sources by 2020.

Labor will use this new RET target as a floor and, if elected, will support the industry-advised increase of the RET in 2020 to bolster investment, specifically in large scale solar. Labor understands the importance of the RET to give industry support to non-fossil fuel electricity generators. 

4. Why can’t the RET stay at 41,000 GWh?

The capital-intensive renewable energy industry requires bipartisanship to underpin its growth. The upfront investments in large-scale projects, like wind and solar farms, take decades to recoup and require the Opposition and Government to offer long term certainty.

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott backflipped on his election commitment last year, the industry cried out for a position supported by both major parties. If Labor's RET in place, we would have achieved that target by 2020

The Liberal Party’s reckless destruction of bipartisanship prompted investors to dessert the industry, prompting an 88% drop in capital investment during 2014.  

This new decision breaks the terrible impasse to give certainty back to the industry. If the Prime Minister had stuck to his original election promise to keep Labor's 41,000 GWh RET in place, it would have been achieved by 2020.

5. What is Tony Abbott and the Liberal’s record on renewables?

Tony Abbott has been trying to cut the RET. He promised to keep it unchanged before the last election and then reneged.

Australia has been losing its place as a significant renewable energy innovator since Tony Abbott was elected. Not only has has Australian investment fallen 88 per cent, but international investment in the renewable energy industry rose by 16 per cent, making a clear case that Australia is losing out due to political dishonesty. 

New figures released by the ABS has shown more than 2000 clean energy jobs have disappeared over the past two years. 

Where:

2012-13

2013-14

Jobs lost:

Australia

13,180

12,590

590

Queensland

3,300

2,520

780

South Australia

1,520

1,330

190

Western Australia

1,210

820

390

Tasmania

1,470

1,450

20

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics – Employment in Renewable Energy Activities, Australia 2013-14

We know that every day this matter drags on, more jobs are lost and every day the uncertainty continues, projects are shelved and future jobs are lost.

Tony Abbott must now end the uncertainty and accept the renewable energy industry’s reduced RET today. 

6. What is Labor’s record on renewable energy?

Labor has always been guided by science when it comes to tackling climate change. That’s why Labor established Australia's Renewable Energy Target to drive investment in clean energy alternatives.

Under Labor, wind power tripled, jobs in the renewable energy sector tripled, homes with rooftop solar panels soared and pollution levels began to fall.

By 2013, Australia was rated one of the four most attractive places to invest in renewable energy, alongside China, the US and Germany. Under Tony Abbott, it has now dropped to tenth. 

Labor also established the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and continues its fight against Tony Abbott’s efforts to abolish these agencies.

Labor believes renewable energy must continue to grow as part of Australia's energy mix. Labor’s vision of a smart modern 21st century Australia has renewable energy at its centre. 

7. What does it all mean for electricity prices?

Even Tony Abbott's hand-picked panel agreed more renewable energy in the system puts downward pressure on household power prices – that’s part of the reason Labor is committed to expanding renewable energy in Australia, along with the jobs, environmental and economic benefits it provides.

8. Has Labor walked away from renewable energy?

No – Labor is acting to protect the future of renewable energy in Australia, that’s why we’re supporting the position of the Clean Energy Council. Australia's success in renewable energy developments is due to policies Labor put in place while in Government. Labor will increase the 2020 RET if elected in 2016. Labor leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister Environment, Climate Change and Water Mark Butler will talk to industry and investors in the coming weeks about Labor's ambitious goals for the renewables industry beyond 2020.