Early Experience and Future Prospects
Edited by John Quiggin, David Adamson and Daniel Quiggin
Chapter 5: How I learned to stop worrying and love the RET
The Renewable Energy Target (RET) is one of Australia's most durable policy measures directed at mitigating climate change, dating back to 2001. It has survived changes of government and a series of policy reviews. Economists, however, have rarely found much of merit in the RET. It is seen as a high-cost way of achieving reductions in emissions that could better be pursued through a price-based mechanism such as either an emissions-based trading scheme or a carbon tax. Since the introduction of a carbon price in July 2012, criticism of the RET has intensified. The covering letter from The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART, 2012), in its submissions to the Climate Change Authority inquiry into the RET articulates the wider concerns of economists, stating: In our view, the introduction of the carbon price and a move towards an emission trading scheme (ETS) removes the need for the RET (and ultimately electricity customers) to continue to subsidise investment in the renewables sector. The RET is not complementary to the carbon price and does not cost effectively address any other significant market failure. In this chapter, it is argued on the contrary that the RET is not merely complementary to the carbon market, but rather is a welfare-improving policy, even after the introduction of the carbon price.
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