Australia's Renewable Energy Sector In Investment Freeze Due To Political Uncertainty

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Haze At Sydney's International Airport As An Australian Commercial Aircraft Prepares To Land
An Australian commercial aircraft prepares to land in the haze at Sydney's International Airport July 15, 2014. Reuters/Jason Reed

Renewable energy investments in Australia have come to a complete stop as 90 percent of projects had fallen in the last 12 months. The country’s renewable energy sector was called “uninvestable” due to the Australian government’s uncertain policies.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance said only one project has secured funding in the last six months. The investment project, a floating solar photovoltaic plant, is worth $6.6 million and is being developed by Infratech Industries in Jamestown, South Australia.

Kobad Bhavnagari, head of BNEF Australia, said renewable energy investments had slumped as lenders and investors began leaving the Australian market. He added that Banco Santander, the world’s third biggest clean energy lender, left the market in the first quarter of 2015.

“The Australian large-scale clean energy industry has become practically uninvestable due to ongoing uncertainty caused by the government’s review of the renewable energy target,” said Bhavnagari. The Abbott government had proposed cuts on the large-scale renewable energy target following the results of a review in 2014.

The government found that the decline in electricity demand means the RET was more like 26 percent rather than the 20 percent in the original 2008 plan. Pressure remains on the Abbott government to reach a compromise over plans to cut the current 2020 target by 32,000 gigawatt-hours per year before the end of the decade, SMH reports.

A spokesperson for Australian Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the government is determined to ensure that the RET remains on sustainable ground by revising the target to a more “realistic” level. However, Greens party leader Christine Milne urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to cancel his proposed cut to the RET the way he had backed down on university fees and Medicare.

Senator Milne said the RET was already working when Mr Abbott realised that renewables were affecting the profits of coal-powered generators. She accused the prime minister of removing all certainty from the renewable energy sector. More than 2000 jobs were lost in the renewable energy industry in the last two years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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