The Renewable Energy Target

Spotlight Activity: The Renewable Energy Target

Back in 2001, Australia’s parliament introduced a new legislation: 4% of Australia’s total electricity must come from renewable sources by 2020. The “Renewable Energy Target” would be a certificate-based system. Energy retailers (who sell Australian consumers their electricity) would have to purchase a certain level of certified renewable energy from accredited power stations every year or face financial penalties.

In 2009, the RET was scaled up to 20%. In 2015, however, it suffered a setback. At the behest of then-Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, the legislation was watered down. Abbott’s government was stridently anti-renewables and assumed the revised target would marginalise or simply kill off the renewable industry in Australia.

Abbott was proved dramatically wrong. At the start of 2019, Australia sits at 23% renewables, already ahead of the 2020 target. Fossil fuel sources contribute less electricity to Australia’s grid than ten years ago, while wind & solar projects have exploded. Such is the scale of renewable projects currently in the pipeline. If current trends continue, Australia will be at 70% by 2040. The crossover point – when renewables overtake coal as Australia’s biggest source of energy – is predicted to occur in 2033.

Status: Moving Forward

This should be a moment to celebrate! The plummeting costs of rooftop solar and battery storage technology have meant renewable energy is more accessible to everyday Australians than ever, and installation rates are skyrocketing. Australia’s power companies have all realised renewable energy is extremely popular with customers and foresee the need to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. This is not just because a tax on carbon pollution is inevitable, but also because Australia’s aging fossil fuel fleet is struggling to cope with extreme temperature conditions during our summer. The likelihood of any significant fossil fuel generation being built in Australia in the near future is very close to zero.

However, the current conservative government has pledged not to renew the RET once it expires in 2020. The RET is not solely responsible for Australia’s flood of renewable energy, but it has been an important signal from successive governments that they will provide the base level of encouragement for renewable energy growth. An advertised target shows business and the international community that there is a commitment from Australia to take action.

Take Action

Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below.

Dear Prime Minister,

We write to ask you to find a spot in your election platform for a renewed RET. What’s not to like about the current version? We’ve hit our renewables target well ahead of schedule, and Australians have fallen in love with rooftop solar. We’re installing panels & batteries at incredible rates! The growth in utility-scale renewable power is catching up, and retiring fossil fuel plants around the country are being replaced with inexpensive, clean options that provide reliable power. At the current rate Australia will hit 70% renewable energy by 2040 – that’s how fast the change is happening.

While scrapping the RET won’t necessarily stop this, it will be a signal to business and the international community that your government is not serious about providing the minimum level of encouragement for renewable energy. Even Labour’s proposed RET of 50% by 2030 is actually unambitious – it will most likely be overshot well before then! Please consider how popular renewable energy is with the Australian public and sign up for a new RET before the election in May – we promise it will be a vote winner.


The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House
Telephone: (02) 6277 7700

Learn More:

Leave a Reply


Climate change is real, and what governments do matters.

Help us work with key stakeholders globally to ensure continued support of the The Paris Agreement.