Some of Australia’s leading consumer and community groups have joined forces with the renewable energy industry to call on the Federal Government to leave the Renewable Energy Target (RET) unchanged to keep power prices down and allow the policy to create employment opportunities.

A coalition of consumer and industry groups including the Australian Council Of Social Service (ACOSS), the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Clean Energy Council, the Alternative Technology Association and the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW has written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott calling on him to restore the spirit of bipartisanship that the policy has enjoyed since it was first created by then Prime Minister John Howard in 2001.

The group collectively represents millions of Australians, many of them on low incomes, with ACOSS alone representing hundreds of community organisations.

“We share your concern about electricity prices. Low income and vulnerable households have suffered financially as a result of increases in power prices largely driven by over-investment in distribution networks,” the letter to the Prime Minister says.

“The economic, environmental and social impacts of the RET scheme have been well documented prior to the current review and are overwhelmingly positive for Australians.

“In recommending a cut to the RET, the Warburton review panel seems to be ignoring the results of the research and analysis that it commissioned, as well as your own wishes that the review focus on cost-of-living issues for consumers. We urge you to reject the review’s recommendations and retain the current RET for the good of Australian electricity consumers.

“We urge the government instead to focus on other areas that have had a vastly more significant effect on driving up power bills. These include electricity network pricing, wholesale gas prices and retail regulation.”

The Clean Energy Council has also released a briefing paper on power prices based on the analysis conducted for the Warburton review of the Renewable Energy Target, which shows that reducing the target would actually drive up power prices for consumers.

Brotherhood of St Laurence Senior Manager, Equity in Response to Climate Change Damian Sullivan said it was essential for low income households that the real drivers of rising energy prices were addressed.

“Let’s not get distracted by the Renewable Energy Target. While the RET may have a small short-term impact on energy prices, it will ultimately lead to lower energy prices for all Australians. Critically, it also promotes sorely-needed employment opportunities,” Mr Nicholson said.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said calls to reduce the RET were ignoring much bigger factors that had increased the cost of power for consumers over the last decade.

“Retreating from a commitment to renewable energy will hurt, not help, consumers over the long-term. The only winners with be a handful of big power companies.

“Many people are struggling with their power bills and propping up coal-fired power stations at the expense of the vulnerable makes no sense,” Dr Goldie said.

Clean Energy Council Acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the Prime Minister made it clear before the review that the policy’s interaction with power prices and cost of living was the most important issue that would be examined.

“The analysis for the review clearly showed that it was better for consumers if the RET was left alone than if it was slashed,” he said.

“All the renewable energy industry is asking is that the level of the target that is already legislated be preserved so we can get on with delivering tens of billions of dollars of investment and tens of thousands of jobs, while keeping power prices low for consumers. Let’s return to the bipartisanship on renewable energy that has endured through multiple elections.”

The open letter from consumer groups and briefing paper on power prices are available at the Clean Energy Council website.

Please contact Ilsa Colson at the Clean Energy Council on 0418 368 639 for more information or to organise an interview.