Today, the Australian government drastically scaled back its renewable energy targets for 2020, dropping them by nearly 20 percent. The new target, 33 TeraWatt-Hours, ends an extended period of uncertainty. The Abbot government had announced its intent to lower the target, but parliamentary negotiations were required to set a new one.
Australia's initial target, 41 TW-hr, had been set in 2009 with the goal of having renewables contribute 20 percent of the nation's electrical generation. But greater efficiency and reduced manufacturing has already pushed the fraction of renewables up over 13 percent. The Abbott government, which is generally hostile to climate science, didn't feel the need to overshoot its goals and so decided to cut the renewable energy target.
Solar and biomass generation, two leading sources of renewable energy in Australia, will not be affected by the deal. But wind power was singled out for added scrutiny. The deal would see a new wind power commissioner appointed to hear public complaints and create a scientific committee that would look into the environmental and health impacts of turbines. As the Sydney Morning Herald notes, however, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council "has found no convincing evidence of health effects associated with so-called 'wind turbine syndrome,'" although more research may be needed to reassure the public.
It may be needed to reassure the Prime Minister, as well. In a recent interview, Abbott was sympathetic to a radio host's claims that the turbines caused health problems and proudly said that he wished he could have cut back on wind power further: "Reduce capital R E D U C E, we reduce the number of these things that we are going to get in the future. Now, I would frankly have liked to reduce the number a lot more."
It's not clear what's motivating Abbott here, given that even old figures (2006) placed Australia's wind power at half the cost of solar, cheaper than nuclear, and nearly competitive with natural gas. And costs of wind power globally have dropped dramatically since.
SOURCE: Ars Technica, June 25th 2015: http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/06/australia-slashes-its-renewable-e...