Victorian Senator Scott Ryan

5th September 2014

Along with Demian Natakhan, I met this afternoon with Victorian Senator Scott Ryan, presently the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education. The subject of the conversation was the proposed changes to the Renewable Energy Target. We very much appreciate the time made available by the Senator particularly as the discussion was outside of his core portfolio.

Senator Ryan’s website states that he is a member of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) whereas both Demian and I both have a background in renewables. We had a civil albeit robust discussion on a range of topics including the need or otherwise for subsidies for renewables. At the request of Senator Ryan the details of those discussions are confidential but I believe both parties found the meeting useful. Our key points (left with Senator Ryan) are listed below.

Key Points 

  1. We represent two Victorian-based small businesses and are representative of thousands of similar businesses across Australia. Most of all we want stability and consistency. We see the removal of the RET as a politically motivated act rather than one that reflects the best interest of the country and small business, which the Liberal Party claims to support.
  2. The Renewable Energy Target (RET) provides proven stability. The 41,000GWh target had bipartisan support and provides both stability and encouragement to transition to renewables. It is a useful market-based incentive for the consumer. The 41,000GWh figure was instituted at the insistence of the incumbent utilities.
  3. Prior to the last Federal election the current government promised the RET of 41,000GWh would be maintained – reference Senator Simon Birmingham speaking at the renewable energy industry conference in July of last year.
  4. Prior to the election, the Prime Minister promised that there would be no changes to the RET. The ‘political dancing’ and backtracking around the ‘real 20%’ and the ‘unreal 20%’ is deeply concerning.  
  5. The recent RET Review does not stand up to scrutiny. There is little faith in the objectivity of its author.  It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the expensive review had a predetermined outcome.
  6. We note that the head of the RET Review undermined his own review by:
    1. Claiming that the RET certificates were a tax rather than a payment to pollute;
    2. Agreeing that the current RET keeps electricity prices lower than they otherwise would be. [Low electricity prices are popular with the electorate];
    3. Agreeing that removal of the RET would be a windfall for (often overseas owned) generators;
    4. Stating that his recommendations would wipe out one third of the renewable energy industry [which will particularly hurt regional and rural Australia].
  7. Significant financial support for the fossil fuel industry distorts the market. Failure to prevent unnecessary and unwanted pollution – particularly from Victorian coal-fired power stations – is blot on our society and a significant cost to our health.
  8. The transition to renewables is inevitable and has massive public support. Removing the RET is just delaying the inevitable albeit with a windfall for a few and a cost (in both money and health) to the commonwealth.  
  9. It is legitimate for the government to intervene and support the transition to renewables given that we have a distorted marketplace (with fossil fuel subsidies).
  10. Ultimately the people – and particularly those on lower incomes – have indicated their preference for renewables and demonstrated their desire to produce at least some of their own power from non-polluting sources and as a consequence to reduce bills and save money. The government can support them or go against the will of the people.