Hands off green energy targets

WIND energy groups are warning any tampering with the Commonwealth’s green energy target could have a “destructive” impact on south-west wind farms. 

Opposition to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is growing ahead of next year’s review into the 20 per cent target by 2020. 

Under the RET, wind turbines are given credits of $30 per megawatt hour — amounting to thousands of dollars per turbine annually. 

Hundreds of turbines planned for the south-west in places such as Willatook, Penshurst and Dundonnell hinge on the RET remaining in place. 

VicWind co-ordinator Andrew Bray said while the Coalition was supportive, he was suspicious the government could “dilute” the target. 

“There’s differing views within the Coalition about the RET — we’d like to see those who are in support of it like Dan Tehan make their support more visible,” Mr Bray said. 

“If you take away the RET you take away the energy sector’s capacity to clean itself up.”

Some Coalition MPs such as member for Hume Angus Taylor say the target should be overhauled.

According to data from the Clean Energy Council, the south-west contributes about 6 per cent of the national target but could add about another 13 per cent if other proposed wind farms were built. 

Pacific Hydro general manager Lane Crockett said “it was a possibility” the government would reduce the credits given to wind farms. 

But he said it was highly unlikely Canberra would scrap the target all together, saying such a move would wreak havoc on the industry. 

“The value of those assets would be substantially reduced,” Mr Crockett said. 

“You would see investors walking away from Australia and renewable energy would be in tatters.” 

Construction started on Pacific Hydro’s Portland wind farm earlier this year. It operates three others at Cape Bridgewater, Yambuk and Codrington. 

The company is building another wind farm at Crowlands near Ararat but Mr Crockett said it was proceeding slowly until the review was finished. 

Renewable Energy Systems (RES) senior developer for the Penshurst wind farm Simon Kerrison said there was uncertainty from the industry.

“Nobody is too sure who will do the review,” he said. 

Since taking power in September the government has moved to dismantle climate change policies such as the carbon tax, the climate change commission and reduced funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which spent $5 million on wave energy in Port Fairy. 

Both Mr Crockett and Mr Bray said they were confident the RET — a policy from the Howard government, would remain in place under the Abbott government. s.mccomish@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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