"Scrapping MRET would cost thousands of Australian jobs and billions of dollars of investment, much of it in regional Australia. It directly threatens thousands of jobs that are already planned such as wind turbine manufacturing," says Ric Brazzale of the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
MRET originally aimed for a 2% increase in power from renewables by 2010, using 1997 as the base year when renewables accounted for 11% of the power mix. Since then the target has changed to a fixed 9500 GWh. There has been much debate about whether the legislation is fulfilling its maximum potential, but it has been effective in catalysing a wind market large enough to prompt two of the world's largest turbine manufacturers, Vestas and NEG Micon, to establish manufacturing facilities in Australia.
COAG, however, says that by specifically targeting renewables to reduce climate change emissions, MRET imposes "significant and unnecessary costs on the Australian community." It prefers policy which does not divert "investment away from more efficient carbon reducing options," such as emissions credit trading. Australia, it argues, has no need to develop renewables in order to conserve fossil fuel, which it has in abundance.
Brazzale points out that COAG's focus on cost-benefits ignores one of the main purposes of MRET -- to build a new Australian industry. Frances MacGuire of Greenpeace says the COAG proposal would "pull the rug out from under Australia's renewable energy industry" while giving large polluters a boost.
COAG made its recommendation in a draft Energy Market Review published the day after government ministers Ian Macfarlane (industry) and David Kemp (environment), along with the sustainable energy business council, released a report hailing the success of the renewables industry, noting it is on track to reach its primary target of A$4 billion in annual sales by 2010. "At this rate, the industry will realise its vision of becoming a sustainable, internationally competitive industry within eight years," said Macfarlane.