The Australian government on Tuesday rejected a plan to generate 42% of the country’s power from wind and solar energy, in a setback for compliance with climate change commitments.
Conservation groups have condemned the ruling conservative coalition for abandoning the renewable energy target for 2030 that was recommended this year by Australia’s chief scientist to comply with the Paris climate change agreement.
The government instead plans to require power companies to provide a certain minimum amount of power from coal, gas and hydroelectric generation.
Reliance on solar and wind generation would be limited according to the needs of each state for guarantee of supply.
The policy change will end subsidies paid to wind and solar generators from 2020, to help reduce costs for consumers.
“Past energy plans have subsidised some industries, punished others and slugged consumers,” Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement.
“The Turnbull government will take a different approach,” he added.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told Parliament that coal and gas would generate 64 to 72% of Australia’s electricity by 2030.
Coal and gas will account for 76.5% by 2020, meaning Australia was on track to achieve its current clean energy target of 23.5% of electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro by then, Mr Frydenberg said.
Hydro is reliable, clean and renewable but is a fairly small component of the energy mix.
Australians per capita are among the world’s worst greenhouse gas polluters because of the country’s heavy reliance on its abundant coal reserves for power.
But no new coal-fired generators are being built because of uncertainty over how Australia intends to achieve its greenhouse gas cuts.
Australia was about to overtake Qatar as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas but the government has restricted exports because state governments have created a domestic supply shortage by blocking new gas field development.
Mark Wakeham, chief executive of Environment Victoria, a Victoria state-based conservation group, accused the government of rejecting “a clean energy target in favour of a coal energy target”.
“Australia joins Donald Trump’s United States as one of only two major national governments to remove support for investment in renewable energy and redirect it to ageing and polluting power stations,” Mr Wakeham said in a statement.
Australia’s Paris target is to reduce emissions by 26% below 2005 levels by 2030.