FORMER Liberal leader John Hewson backs Renewable Energy Target, calls for its expansion
FORMER Liberal leader John Hewson backs Renewable Energy Target, calls for its expansion LUKAS COCH

Liberal veteran Hewson backs Renewable Energy Target

A FORMER Liberal Party leader has urged the Abbott government not just to retain the renewable energy target, but increase it to ensure carbon emissions can be curbed.

Economist Dr John Hewson, who led the party to election defeat in 1993, on Thursday called on the government to increase the current 20% by 2020 target to at least 25% or more by the same date.

He made the comments launching a new report which has found the RET will continue to reduce the cost of household electricity, even as the government reviews the target.

The target is being reviewed by a government-appointed panel led by noted climate change sceptic Dick Warburton, which has received several submissions from heavy industries urging the government to abolish the target.

But Dr Hewson said the RET, likely the only specific target for reducing Australia's emissions left once the carbon tax is removed, is doing the job.

He said while the RET and other climate change policies could help to reduce emissions, in less than a week, Australia could be without any overarching policy on climate change.

That situation has come about due to the Palmer United Party's support of the carbon tax repeal, due to pass next week, and retaining an emissions trading scheme with no actual price on emissions.

Along with the carbon tax, the government has largely blamed the doubling of electricity prices on the RET, rather than "gold-plating" of transmissions networks by the states.

The Australia Institute report, by policy analyst Matt Grudnoff, argues the RET has already, and will continue to, put "downward pressure" on power prices and increased uptake of renewable energy.

It also found some 86% of Australians surveyed for the report supported more renewables, rather than coal-fired electricity, and 70% back the RET as it is.

But the report differs from heavy industry's perspective, argued in a submission to the Warburton Review by the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network.

The AIGN, representing coal and gas miners, aluminium and cement industries and chemical companies among others, argued the RET should be abolished.

Its submission to the review argued that "the RET be abolished in the shortest possible time frame to minimise cost to households, trade-exposed industries and existing generators".

While it supported "market solutions" to addressing carbon emissions, it described the RET as "a particularly interventionist policy" that disadvantages the heavy industry against the renewables sector.