The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
While some countries are taking in the success of setting records within their solar industries, other nations are doing whatever it takes to preserve their own.
Some in Australia say that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has changed his stance on renewable energy now that his place in office is secure. Abbott promised to keep the country's renewable energy target (RET) of 20-percent renewable electricity generation by 2020 intact. Now, the prime minister has taken control over a scheduled review within his department and has publicly stated that the RET may not work and needs to be a reassessed.
The Labor political party's environmental spokesman Mark Butler says the situation is even worse.
“The Liberals went to the election saying there was no difference between the parties on renewable energy, but they weren’t being straight with the Australian people because now they are launching a full-frontal attack,” he said.
Butler believes the sudden change of heart is ideological and can be best combated by drumming up community support. The Australian Solar Council and CleantechFundr are trying to do so through the Save Solar campaign, launched this week. In January, Solar Business Services estimated that about 7,000 jobs could be lost if Australia eliminates its RET. That amount includes 2,000 next year within the photovoltaic industry.
The RET also proves as an assurance for those who invest in renewable energy. The dollars could stop flowing if the government says it is no longer behind solar, wind and other forms. One of Abbott's first orders after the election was the suspension of loans from the Clean Energy Finance Corp. The country has also seen funding cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and renewable subsidies.
"If all of those things and the RET goes away, it has a combined phenomenal impact on the propensity of people to proceed with solar," solar industry analyst Nigel Morris told AAP.
That would be a far cry from 2008, when environment minister Greg Hunt went skydiving to symbolize the "free fall" the solar industry was in after former Prime Minster Kevin Rudd launched a means test on solar panel rebates.
Australian Solar Council CEO John Grimes believes the industry is thriving and has the figures to prove it. The Save Solar campaign was built on the belief that the RET works because:
- 5 million Australians now have solar on their homes;
- 15,000 Australians have jobs in the solar industry;
- 4,500 businesses in the solar industry and
- About 3.5 million people say they want to go solar in the next five years.
Morris added that the RET has "virtually no cost" to the government.
“We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower," Abbott said around Christmas. "Cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages … what we will be looking at is what we need to do to get power prices down significantly."
Abbott said he would work with Maurice Newman, chairman of his business advisory council, to find a solution. Newman said the RET should be scrapped months before Abbott won the election.
According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, the RET has increased retail energy prices by 3.5 percent.
"If the RET is unchanged, an additional 8,000 solar PV jobs are expected to be created by 2018," Grimes wrote in January.
"Don’t smash an industry that will help 1.5 million more Australians go solar in the next 2 years."
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
by Jordan Davidson
Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.
By Alisa Opar
For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.
By Jessica Corbett
Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images
By Bridget Shirvell
On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.
That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.