Climate sceptic heads RET review

The law says that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) should be reviewed every two years, so a 2014 review is mandatory.

The law also says that the review should be undertaken by the Climate Change Authority (CCA), which still exists courtesy of the senate. The CCA in a draft report on the emissions target suggested the current 5% emissions reduction target was not enough if we are to pull our weight in the world. In the text they appeared to favour a 25% target, but recommended at least 15% pointing out also the an additional 4% could be added courtesy of Kyoto credits.

I believe the RET has been one of the more successful factors in restraining emissions.

Giles Parkinson reported two months ago now that the RET Review will be headed by Dick Warburton, a climate change “denier”. Warburton told RN’s AM program that the science was not settled.

I am not a denier, nor a sceptic actually, of climate change per se. What I am sceptical is the claims that man-made carbon dioxide is the major cause of global warming. I’m not a denier of that, but I am sceptical of that claim.

When asked whether he believed renewable energy had its role to play in Australia’s energy mix Warburton replied:

Yes it does. Renewable energy does have a place to play. The review is asking us to look to see whether it is an efficient and effective way of doing it as we’re doing it at the moment.

warburton_250I understand he did overtly oppose carbon pricing.

In my opinion Warburton is a denier. Given the degree of certainty in the science you either accept the science or deny it. There’s no room left for fence sitting. That being said, Warburton had a fine reputation as a businessman leading Dupont’s Australian operations, was used by the Keating government in industry renewal, has been a member of the Reserve Bank board and has had various company board roles.

It has emerged that Warburton has been the subject of an investigation into his role as a former director of a firm involved in Australia’s worst foreign bribery scandal. I would suggest that Abbott has done his due diligence and found him in the clear.

Both Abbott and Macfarlane have been emphasising their concern over renewables contributing to the cost of electricity. A second panelist is Matt Zema, the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator. As such he was responsible for a study recently

that found 100 per cent renewables would be possible in Australia, and concluded that the cost of electricity would be little different to business as usual, although AEMO declined to do a full cost analysis.

Greg Hunt parrots his boss’s concerns:

“We are a government that is unashamedly doing our best to take pressure off manufacturing and households through anything that can lower electricity prices,” he said in a theme frequently repeated by the conservative government.

If they are concerned about the future cost of electricity they could begin by looking at the policy of privatisation, found to be “a dismal failure” by Professor Quiggin.

A third panel member, Shirley In’t Veld, is the former head of WA government owned generation company Verve Energy which

has had a history of snubbing renewable energy and chose instead to invest in the refurbishment of the ageing Muja coal-fired generator. The refurbishment has proved to be a financial disaster, with the WA government admitting that nearly $300 million had gone down the drain.

The fourth member is Dr Brian Fisher, the former long-term head of ABARE until he left for private enterprise in 2006 to head up a fossil fuel lobby group, Concept Economics. At ABARE he gained notoriety for his positions on climate policies and is a noted free-market hardliner. Under Fisher:

ABARE was responsible for the infamous “MEGABARE” model that made Australia a laughing stock in connection to the Kyoto negotiations.

Sounds like a merry crew, Abbott’s idea of ‘balance’, and bound to add to the climate recalcitrance now so common in the Anglo-Saxon world.

There is a question as to whether the LNP deliberately lied and misled the public prior to the election. The SMH cites specific bi-partisanship as late as July 2013. Labor’s view:

“At every possible point, they tried to assure the community that there was a bipartisan consensus around the RET, and therefore the growth of renewables,” Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler says. “What’s clear now is that it was just an utter falsehood.”


“They made it very clear; Greg Hunt staked his reputation on the maintenance of the renewable energy target,” he told said in the island state of Tasmania.

“It’s important for jobs. It’s important in terms of positioning Australia as a clean energy economy into the future.

“We’ll wait and see what they do but we’ll be holding them to account,” Mr Albanese said.

Update: Giles Parkinson tells how the Warburton Review is getting down to business today by looking at what the RET of 20% means. Presently it is a number – “41,000GWh of large-scale developments and an uncapped amount of small-scale generation”. It seems that more than half of that number can be made to disappear by changing definitions.

6 thoughts on “Climate sceptic heads RET review”

  1. There are four separate questions here Brian:
    1. What should our emissions reduction targets be? If the effort to keep the global temperature rise below 2 deg C and the per capita effort is equally shared the last time I looked we have to get Aus down to zero emissions by about 2022!!
    2. What has to be done to achieve the the target. For this question we are talking about the mix of wind, solar, energy savings, clean steel production etc. to achieve these targets?
    3. How should the needed changes be driven? RET, carbon price, Snowy Mountain authority like schemes etc.?
    4. What are the business risks associated with reducing our effort? (Ex: Australia is vulnerable to trade sanctions as the rest of the world becomes more serious re climate action.)
    5. What are the non-climate benefits of reducing emissions? (Ex1: Rooftop solar has actually reduced the cost of power despite what conservative politicians say. Ex2: Improving transport fuel efficiency reduces fossil fuel imports.)
    Up till now, the RET has been one of the few successful emission trading schemes in the world. However, Abbott has has been able to effectively shut down new large scale renewable energy schemes (apart from those supported by the ACT renewable energy auctions) by simply sowing doubt re the future of the RET.

  2. If the effort to keep the global temperature rise below 2 deg C and the per capita effort is equally shared the last time I looked we have to get Aus down to zero emissions by about 2022!!

    I’ve not seen this spelled out anywhere. Is it in the BZE literature? I’ve been saying we (the world) should aim at about 50% by 2020, zero by 2030 and then go negative. If you take into account our high per capita emissions, zero by 2022 for Australia sounds about right unless we buy credits.

  3. Just want to clarify, I am advocating protest and where necessary, civil disobedience – nothing more. I don’t want to bring your very good blog into disrepute in any way.

  4. Today’s REnewEconomy report on the RET review confirms your suspicions Brian:

    Clean energy representatives were shocked by the panel’s appointment as chief advisor and modeller of ACIL Allen, a consultancy seen as close to the fossil fuel industry, and whose highly contested research formed the basis of the coal industry’s attempts to dismantle the RET in 2012.

    Not only will ACIL Allen do the modelling for the RET Review panel, some of the assumptions that will form the basis of that modelling have also stunned the clean energy industry, and been branded as a farce.

    This includes an apparent refusal to measure the benefits of renewable energy – including the health benefits, job benefits, and the network benefits – which the panel has dismissed as “too hard to model” and little more than a “transfer of wealth”, presumably away from the coal generators and network providers. There is concern about how it will model the reduction in wholesale prices – the main complaint from the existing fossil fuel industry.

    Around 50 people who attended the RET Review panel’s modelling forum at the Mercure hotel near Sydney’s international airport were also told that the modelling will assume that there will be no carbon price out to 2030, and will not factor in any abatement targets. In other words, it is assuming there will be no carbon restrictions on the sector for another two decades.

    John Grimes, the CEO of the Australian Solar Council, echoed the thoughts of many who attended the meeting and were interviewed by RenewEconomy when he said it appeared clear that the RET Review will serve only to protect the vested interests in the current electricity market.

    “I’ve got to say – this is much worse than we had anticipated,” Grimes said. “This entire review process needs to be revealed for the sham that it is … we can only conclude that the RET Review process is heading to a biased and predetermined outcome.

    “Instead of making customer benefits the key measure of a successful energy market, this review is set to side with big business, giving little or no weight to the benefits of solar for householders, business and the community.

    The good news is that the review is building up to be a very attackable farce.

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