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Govt backflips on clean energy targets -

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Govt backflips on clean energy targets

Broadcast: 24/09/2007

Reporter: Matt Peacock

For years, the Federal Government had specifically ruled out the idea of increasing renewable
energy targets, but now it's had a change of heart. Under a new plan, announced by the Prime
Minister, fifteen per cent of electricity generated across the country will have to come from wind,
solar or clean coal, by 2020. Energy producers are supportive, but green groups say it's too little
and the states are unimpressed.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: The Federal Government's latest attempt to boost its green credentials with an
election campaign just around the corner has not exactly been met with thunderous applause.

Having rejected arguments to significantly increase its mandatory targets for renewable energy over
years, the Prime Minister has now committed to do precisely that.

Mr Howard's new national scheme - which would encompass all the existing schemes around the states
- would dictate that 15 per cent of the nation's power needs would come from renewables or clean
energy, or clean technology by 2020.

But green groups, the states and the Federal Opposition are all heavily critical of aspects of the
scheme.

Matt Peacock reports.

MATT PEACOCK: As concern over global warming reaches new heights, leaders from over 80 nations are
gathering in New York today for an unprecedented UN summit to plan the sequel to the Kyoto Treaty.

Back in Australia at the weekend, Kevin Rudd was basking in the glow of Al Gore's climate campaign.

And John Howard was announcing a plan of his own, suggesting a target of 15 per cent for what he
calls clean energy by 2020.

ANDREW RICHARDS, PACIFIC HYDRO: Essentially from a target point of view, it is business as usual.
So while we're delighted that the regulatory environment will become a little bit more clear, we
would've been delighted if they'd also increase the target to 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.

JOHN BOSHIER, NATIONAL GENERATIONS FORUM: The timing was a little bit of a surprise, but then it is
election time and these things happen, but I think that overall it will prove to be the right
decision.

MATT PEACOCK: The Federal Government has set a target of 30,000 gigawatt hours of electricity to
come from clean energy by 2020. That is, solar and wind but also so-called clean coal, assuming
that the technology to bury coal-generated carbon emissions is viable by then.

IAN MACFARLANE, INDUSTRY MINISTER: What we are doing with this program is increasing the mandatory
renewable energy target threefold. But also in doing that, including future energy sources which
will be pivotal to Australia's energy security, such as clean coal.

PETER GARRETT, OPPOSITION ENVIRONMENT SPOKESMAN: All Mr Howard and Mr Turnbull have done is
actually steal the states' targets and dressed it up as their own. They haven't provided any
additional target that can take us anywhere in terms of increasing renewable energy, so it's not a
target at all.

MATT PEACOCK: In 2001, the Howard Government set an additional compulsory renewable energy target
of two per cent of the then total, the target its critics claimed was too low, and one that has
since shrunk to nearly half that as energy consumption has grown.

IAN MACFARLANE: Well, the MRET target was a success far before we expected it to. We expected the
targets to be reached some time after 2010, 2015. In fact, it looks as though the target will be
reached as early as 2008.

PETER GARRETT: When the Howard Government came into power, we had about 10.5 per cent of our total
energy needs met by renewables. At this stage of the game, when we go to the election, we'll be on
about 8.5 per cent. Under Mr Howard, we've gone backwards in terms of supporting renewable energy
and their industry.

MATT PEACOCK: For Australia's major power generators, the Government's new target is a welcome
move, if only because it rationalises the States' schemes that grew once the federal targets ceased
to bite.

JOHN BOSHIER: The present situation was becoming untenable, quite frankly. The different state
schemes meant that there was overlap between them, they were inconsistent. More and more generators
are becoming national generators and what that means is that they need to do national policies.

MARTJIN WILDER, BAKER & MCKENZIE: This is really a re-commitment to the existing sort of approach
the Federal Government had previously, and that will consolidate the existing state measures into
one measure. So it'll make it administratively more efficient. But what we really need is a more
robust target which really drives investment in solely renewables, not just in clean coal
geosequestration.

MATT PEACOCK: Clean energy consultant Martjin Wilder thinks the Government's announcement will do
little to boost renewables like wind and solar.

MARTJIN WILDER: The net effect is that there'll not be a significant increase on the levels of
renewed energy generation that we currently have under the State managers.

MATT PEACOCK: So, essentially, no difference?

MARTJIN WILDER: No real difference, no.

MATT PEACOCK: But for the industry, Minister Ian Macfarlane, who was today briefing Australian
power generators, this is the next logical step after accepting the need for an emissions trading
scheme.

IAN MACFARLANE: Having that in place, we were then able to set how we could also accelerate the
adoption of clean energy.

MATT PEACOCK: More is needed faster, according to Andrew Richards of Pacific Hydro, one of
Australia's leading suppliers of renewable energy.

ANDREW RICHARDS: Emissions are growing at 3 per cent per annum. So we've got a massive job ahead of
us just to stabilise emissions from the energy sector before we can even start to cut into it, so a
renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020 would make a substantial difference to that.

MARTJIN WILDER: If you want to boost the renewed energy industry by 15 per cent to 20 per cent, you
need to have a measure that focuses solely on renewables in a way that China has done by having a
15 per cent renewable energy target, or other countries who are looking at a 20 to 25 per cent
renewable energy target.

MATT PEACOCK: That's a view echoed by the Opposition's Peter Garrett, who says global warming is
worse than first thought.

PETER GARRETT: The time for action on climate change is clearly now. The latest scientific data
particularly with the ice melts in Antarctica and in the Arctic are very worrying.

MATT PEACOCK: But although Labor promises it will do more, it's yet to say what.

ANDREW RICHARDS: We would either hope to look to Federal Labor now to see what they have to offer
coming into the federal election as well. They have talked about a substantial increase in MRET and
we applaud that, and we're looking forward to see what their target is in the coming federal
election.

PETER GARRETT: We think it needs to be a significant target, and we'll be able to make that
announcement and provide those details in plenty of time for people in the run-up to the election.

MATT PEACOCK: Plenty of time but not yet, says Labor, on one of the few areas that voters expect a
clear difference between the major parties. But time almost all world leaders now agree is one
thing we're running out of.