GREENS leader Christine Milne has ramped up calls against offering aluminium smelters a full exemption from the Renewable Energy Target amid mounting support for the move among her political opponents.
Federal Coalition and Labor MPs are expected to enter negotiations over the future of the target later this week, after the Clean Energy Council backed calls to exclude the aluminium sector.
The renewable energy industry body said it would support a full exemption if it would guarantee bipartisan support for the RET and restored stability to the renewable energy and aluminium industries.
Their support follows backing for a full exemption from the Australian Workers Union, and has been mooted as making a deal on the scheme’s future between the political foes almost certain.
Senator Milne said she was disappointed by the council’s intervention.
‘‘To cave in to government pressures and the big polluters is frankly pathetic,’’ she said.
Senator Milne urged the Labor Party not to ‘‘brown down’’ the scheme by excluding big electricity users, saying the move would completely undermine the target’s purpose.
Labor is yet to commit to a full RET exemption for aluminium smelters, but Labor Senator Lisa Singh said the measure presented as a ‘‘sensible and considered’’ option.
‘‘We are open to the Clean Energy Council’s suggestion that the aluminium industry, including Bell Bay Aluminium in Tasmania, be regarded as a special case,’’ Senator Singh said.
Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic welcomed Senator Singh’s support, saying the RET was a significant drag on Bell Bay Aluminium’s operations.
‘‘With aluminium at historically low prices we should not be adding unnecessary pressure to its production costs,’’ he said.
Mr Nikolic said calls to fully exempt aluminium smelters were bolstered by the fact the RET would far exceed its target of generating 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
But Senator Milne urged a different approach to the better-than-expected RET progress.
‘‘There is absolutely no doubt there is a surplus across the Australian energy sector,’’ she said.
‘‘That’s why its the best opportunity we’ve ever had to shut down coal-fired generation.’’