In speaking to members of the renewable energy sector about what they think is most important to the government’s review of the Renewable Energy Target there is universal agreement: electricity prices.
Abbott has been elected to a significant extent off the back of public anger about how electricity prices doubled between 2007 and 2013, and he knows it.
Getting rid of the carbon tax is task number one in Abbott delivering for these people (even though its 9% drop in prices is a long way short of a return to 2007 levels).
And for many members of the Coalition and their major supporters the RET is really a mini carbon tax in disguise that should be next for the chopping block. They believe it is driving up electricity prices as well, while undermining Australia’s competitive advantage in cheap and plentiful supplies of fossil fuel energy. OK, the RET might reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but for many of these people climate change just isn’t seen as a legitimate issue.
For these people there is a heartfelt desire that the RET is bad for the country; scrapping it for them is not about gaining political advantage. Indeed, they’d be willing to scrap the RET even if it came at a political cost. But they actually think that such is the household anger over electricity price rises, scrapping the RET and the associated cost they believe it places on electricity bills could be a vote winner. This is even though a range of polls suggest 70-90% of the electorate view wind and solar as their most preferred source of new electricity supply.
But those within the renewables sector believe they have a strong political defence. This is that while the RET involves an extra cost to subsidise the development of renewable energy systems, this cost is largely, or even completely, offset by reductions in prices across the overall wholesale electricity market.
When I check the AEMO front page I see that South Australia – the State with highest percentage of installed wind power – has the highest electricity price.