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Crikey says: watch out for your wind power

Believe it or not: Australian manufacturing jobs rise. And the White House might have brokered a deal on the fiscal cliff. No surprise most of the Fairfax refugees have gone to PR. The woman following your donations to charity. And the big winners and losers from business in 2012.

The renewable energy target has long lived in the shadow of the carbon price; a Dannii Minogue to the tax’s Kylie. But for how much longer?

The federal government’s Climate Change Authority has today given the RET a big slap on the back: an extensive policy review has approved the RET (which mandates that 20% of electricity must come from renewables by 202o). It does suggest a few tweaks, like further cutting subsidies for solar panels.

The RET has never been as controversial as the carbon price, it’s been in operation for longer and it arguably does more for the climate than the carbon price (which raises cash to spend largely on cutting emissions overseas). The RET has bipartisan support. So everything’s hunky dory, then?

Watch this space. If the Coalition wins the election, all the praise from the Climate Change Authority will mean little. Insiders say there is pressure within the Coalition to cut back the RET, tinker with it — or scrap it entirely. If the Coalition struggles to repeal the carbon tax, a face-saving option being considered by some MPs is to try to gut the RET. Some Coalition MPs have reservations about renewable energy, particularly wind. Some have been in Tony Abbott’s ear about it — and not just Ron Boswell.

Questions should be asked of political leaders, and when questions are evaded they should be asked again. If Australia is to change direction on renewable energy, any plans should be made public before an election, and policy changes should be fully scrutinised and costed.

The RET has mostly flown under the radar, but its future may not be assured.

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