'Federal politics has failed energy consumers'

The Clean Energy Council has issued a policy directive ahead of the federal elections in May, calling for the next government to commit to a 50% renewable energy target by 2030.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison (pic: Scott Morrison / Twitter)

Ahead of the elections — the first for Scott Morrison since he took office in August — in May, the Clean Energy Council lobby group has put forward what it believes the next government should be doing about renewable energy in Australia.

"The plunging cost of wind and solar has contributed to a record A$20 billion (US$14 billion) worth of projects now under construction.

"This extraordinary momentum will only continue with strong and enduring federal policy leadership.

"Federal politics has failed energy consumers. Leadership from the next federal government is essential to deliver cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy," said the council’s chief executive, Kane Thornton.

Among its recommendations for the next administration is the 50% renewable energy target, and a zero-emissions electricity sector "well before 2050".

It also called for a greater take-up of energy storage "such as batteries and pumped hydro"; a mandate for solar power in all new homes; and to "accelerate reforms and finance support to develop Australia’s electricity transmission network for a clean energy future".

"We should also begin planning the infrastructure to export renewable energy to the rest of the world through clean hydrogen and high-voltage DC cables.

"A clean energy future is within reach, but we need effective planning and policy at the federal level to get there.

"We look forward to working with both the federal government and the Labor Party on developing policy, as well as providing advice to whoever wins the next election," Thornton added.

Renewable energy policy is a divisive issue in Australia, having, in part, caused the downfall of former prime minister Malcom Turnbull at the end of August.

Turnbull introduced the national energy guarantee policy in 2017.

It consisted of two parts: a reliability guarantee that required utilities to ensure the correct level of dispatchable energy, and an emissions guarantee to contribute towards the country’s international commitments.

The system, however, was unpopular within Turnbull’s own Liberal Party, with critics — including coal-supporting former prime minister Tony Abbott — claiming it would cause further increases to consumers’ bills.

Since Morrison took office at the head of the coalition government, no federal energy policy has been put forward to replace the existing renewable energy target system that expires in 2020.

Energy minister Angus Taylor told Australia’s parliament in September that the RET, designed to support clean energy up to 33TWh by 2020 (roughly 23.5% of demand), would be left to expire without a new system to take its place.

In November, Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition Labor Party, unveiled a A$15 billion programme to support the green transition including A$5 billion to improve transmission infrastructure.