NEG matters

The Coalition’s intent to lock in a 26 per cent reduction in electricity emissions by 2030 was confirmed in the release of the latest paper on the NEG late last week. It’s a lot less than what the industry or the country needs, and John Grimes of the Smart Energy Council says it signals disaster for renewables.

In a memo to members, John Grimes explained the emissions target is actually on track to be met in just two years – by 2020 – and is likely to be exceeded by 2022 due to the success of the Renewable Energy Target.

This means no renewables will be built for the decade from 2020 to 2030, John Grimes says.

The NEG as it stands also refuses to guarantee State renewable energy targets and remains committed to international offsets, so if any emissions reductions were required they could be met through unverifiable overseas projects rather than Australian renewable energy projects.

“This is a line in the sand moment. The NEG will not deliver any additional renewable energy projects between 2020 and 2030,” John Grimes said.

“If State renewable energy targets are axed, solar and renewable energy projects will dry up and jobs will disappear.

“This next month will decide the future of Australia’s solar and renewable energy industry for the next 12 years.”

The final NEG policy proposal to be put to state energy ministers in August and requires the support of all State Energy Ministers, which is why the Smart Energy Council is calling on them to only support the National Energy Guarantee conditional upon:

·       The Federal Government legislating to reduce emissions in the National Electricity Market by at least 45 per cent by 2030 (from 2005 levels)

·       Existing State and Territory renewable energy targets being maintained

·       Any national emissions targets only being increased not decreased; and

·       An annual Emissions Reductions Safeguard being incorporated in the NEG.

What does the community think? Interestingly, the latest Lowy Institute poll shows that 84 per cent of Australians want to see more investment in renewables, and that 72 per cent of Liberal-National supporters support a focus on renewables over coal.

“That is unsurprising really,” says the Smart Energy Council. “Australians want to use smart solar and storage technology to bring down power prices, create jobs and clean up the environment.

“They want smart energy to make their lives better. The National Energy Guarantee will deliver the opposite - it stops renewable energy projects dead for a decade. The only guarantee it offers is less investment, fewer jobs and more uncertainty for renewables.”

Only the States and Territories can save us from this fate, says John Grimes.

It will only take one State or Territory to veto this plan.

If just one State or Territory makes their support for the NEG conditional on strong emissions reduction targets it stops.

We know what the Victorian Energy Minister thinks, just last week Lily D’Ambrosio said Victoria will not agree to anything that puts a brake on the state’s renewables agenda.

“Victoria will not sign anything that stalls renewable energy investment in Victoria,” she said at last week’s Smart Energy Summit. “The design and the merits of the NEG are being assessed (but) our vision is for a clean energy state.

“We want to be Australia’s new energy technologies hub,” she said, adding she was working with COAG, and awaits the coalition’s design that is to be decided on at the meeting on August 10.

ESCO Pacific’s Jonathan Upson has suggested the NEG could be tweaked to produce a more effective emissions groundwork: raise emissions targets; enable state energy ministers to raise, but not lower the target in the future; and exclude overseas carbon credits. 

Solar Citizens agrees the Energy Security Board's latest draft of the NEG is bad news; it offers nothing favourable to renewables investment, and what’s worse, they say, is it gives Tony Abbott's Monash Forum a platform to hijack the energy debate and amplify their pro-coal message.

In the past few days Liberal backbenchers have publicly persecuted renewable energy subsidies and put new coal on a pedestal, and Abbott has told media he’ll only support the NEG if it allows for new coal-fired power. 

Seriously. They’re not going to stop, Solar Citizens emphasises.

 “With Prime Minister Turnbull struggling in the polls, the Monash Forum’s voice in the Coalition party room is made stronger and the current threat to our clean energy future is all too real. 

“It’s individuals like you and I that have to do something about it. As solar citizens we must stay vigilant and keep working to repower Australia with the sun, wind and waves. Renewables are here and ready to do the job cleaner and cheaper than ever before, but we must keep up the fight.”