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Australia’s Renewable Energy Industry Grinds To A Halt

Peter Hannam, The Sydney Morning Herald

Australia’s investment in renewable energy all but dried up in the first half of 2014 amid uncertainty fuelled by the government’s latest review of the mandatory target, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In the six months to June, just $40 million was invested in large-scale renewable energy, such as wind farms, the lowest level since the first half of 2001, according to Kobad Bhavnagri, head of BNEF’s Australian unit.

The investment tally compared with $2.691 billion in 2013, the second largest annual inflow of funds to the clean energy sector behind the peak year of 2010.

In February, the government appointed a panel to review the aim of generating 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy by 2020.

The panel’s make-up, including the choice of climate-change sceptic and former Caltex chairman Dick Warburton, fanned industry fears that the group will recommend reductions in the Renewable Energy Target (RET). That would potentially affect the viability of even existing investments.

“Clean Energy investment in Australia fell sharply in the lead-up to the federal election and then fell further again after the Coalition took government with its promise to conduct a review of the RET,” Mr Bhavnagri told Fairfax Media.

“The investment environment for clean energy in Australia is currently very poor.”

Australia’s virtual halt to new investments in large-scale renewable energy plants comes as the Senate prepares to vote on Wednesday to scrap another part of Australia’s climate change policy, the price on carbon.

Barring some last-minute surprise, Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party, is expected to give the Abbott government the votes it needs to eliminate the two-year fixed price on carbon emissions.

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