The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) is warning that the Abbot Government’s decision to reduce the Renewable Energy Target (RET) puts Australia’s low-carbon future in jeopardy.

The Abbott Government recently announced that the RET, set by the former Labor Government (as a bilateral agreement) at 41,000 gigawatt hours of energy to be delivered from renewable sources by 2020, will be reduced to 33,000 gigawatt hours, or 33,000 billion watt hours of electrical energy.

However, Abbott does maintain that the original RET, agreed upon by both parties, was intended to be 20 per cent of electricity production by 2020 - not a gigawatt hour figure. According to Abbott, the Coalition's new figure of 33,000 gigawatt hours will still be an over 23 per cent RET.

Expressing her disappointment with the decision, GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Romilly Madew said the ongoing uncertainty around the RET has damaged Australia’s renewable energy industry both locally and internationally as well as efforts across the economy to reduce emissions, impacting Australia’s global standing as a sustainable economy open to innovative technologies and solutions.

According to Madew, the RET has supported investment in renewable energy solutions across the nation, reducing emissions and energy bills for building owners and tenants alike. Listing out some of the positive outcomes of the Renewable Energy Target, she said that it has encouraged more than 15,000 businesses to invest in solar power, and supported more than 13,000 jobs, benefitting the economy and boosting the country’s international competitiveness.

Many of the 855 Green Star-rated projects around Australia have invested in renewable energy solutions, with research confirming that such buildings produce 62 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than average Australian buildings, and use 66 per cent less electricity than their non-green counterparts. Observing that low-carbon and even carbon-positive buildings are achievable and affordable, Madew said that the industry’s shift to sustainability should be supported by the right policies and programs.

Analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance reveals that new investment in Australian large-scale renewable energy projects fell by 90 per cent over the year to March. Of the $206.9 million invested, $160 million came from government agencies such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that the Coalition government wants to scrap.

Madew explains that encouraging renewable energy use reduces emissions, encourages innovation and technology advancements, and ultimately boosts Australia’s international competitiveness and attractiveness to investors. However, slashing the RET only sells Australia short, leaving it behind other countries that are embracing renewable energy opportunities and preparing their economies for a low-carbon future.