Protect the RET

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) has been the major driver of renewable energy investment in Australia since 2001 when the Howard government introduced the scheme. But with the announcement last month by the Abbott Government, to appoint “man made climate change denier”, Dick Warburton to head the review, sends a worrying message about where support for renewable energy in Australia might be heading. Particularly because there is strong support from the Australian public who prefer Wind & Solar technologies over Fossil Fuels, as a recent Climate Institute poll shows.

Public support for different energy technologies

Public support for different energy technologies


The RET currently mandates that 20% of Australia’s energy needs to come from renewable energy by 2020. We are currently on track to exceed that target, largely due to an unexpected reduction in demand, which an increased uptake of rooftop solar PV and energy efficiency measures is partly responsible for. Origin Energy and Energy Australia have been calling for a reduction in the fixed target of 48,150GWh. This has been backed up by words from the prime minister Tony Abbott and some media suggesting that the RET is responsible for an increase in the cost of electricity bills.

The Australian Energy Market Commission, recently found that the RET costs just 3-5% of power bills, with that percentage projected to further decline in coming years. By 2015 it is estimated that the RET would cost the average household around $1 a week. When this is compared to other pressures pushing the price of electricity up, it’s the thin edge of the wedge. If we are really serious about trying to keep the cost of electricity for consumers down, we’d be looking at wholesale and retail costs, which make up around 52% of the average household bills, or network costs, like poles and wires, which account for about 40%.

This isn’t the whole story when you look at the cost of the RET though. Some commentators who are pointing out the cost of the RET on electricity bills, are forgetting to look at the benefits that having more renewables on the grid brings. Having more wind and solar generation is actually helping to drive down wholesale electricity costs. A recent study shows that over a 7 day period, wind power helped to reduce wholesale prices in South Australia and Victoria by 40%. Solar PV is another example of this, where solar production often correlates to times of peak demand from air conditioners, helping to cut out expensive spikes in electricity demand and costly blackouts on hot days. If these benefits are taken into account the cost of the RET is reduced even further.

Beyond the benefits the RET brings to the electricity network, there have been new industries created along with tens of thousands of jobs. There’s been a huge economic injection of billions of dollars of private investment, it’s helping to reduce the health impact of air pollution (just think about the recent fires in the Hazelwood mine). Then there’s the general long term climate benefits of less CO2 in the atmosphere that having more renewables contributes towards, including the protection of biodiversity, a reduction in the risk of severe weather events and the reduced insurance premiums and higher clean-up costs that come with it. There are also the long lasting mental health impacts of people affected by increased drought and bushfire, the higher number of climate refugees seeking a new place to live due to sea level rise, drought and wars over natural resources.

Between now and 2031 the RET is expected to cost an average of $15 a year on your electricity bill. Given the benefits that renewable energy can bring us, you’d think we are getting good value for money. What do you think, is this really too much to pay?


To find out more on how you can support keeping the Renewable Energy Target check out  #ProtectThe RET

or to donate to supporting the Small Scale RET go to the Australian Solar Council’s Website (they’ve also got some great infographics below).

Australian Solar Council - RET Jobs Infographic

Australian Solar Council – RET Jobs Infographic

Australian Solar Council Infographic - Solar Saves Money

Australian Solar Council Infographic – Solar Saves Money