CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Senate passed legislation Thursday to require that 20 per cent of the country’s electricity come from renewable sources such as the sun and wind by 2020, matching European standards and up from about 8 per cent now.
The bill is certain to be endorsed by the government-dominated House of Representatives later Thursday and become law.
The law would quadruple the renewable energy target set by the previous government in 2001 and provide enough clean electricity to power the households of all 21 million Australians.
The target matches one set in 2007 by the European Union, which leads the world in green power technology.
But some officials warn that more aggressive cuts in carbon gas emissions are needed as well.
The bill was passed after the government reached a deal with the main opposition party to increase government assistance to industries that are heavy users of electricity and create safeguards for existing investment in the coal mining industry.
Sen. Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens minor opposition party, said the target should be 30 per cent and that big polluters were offered too much government assistance.
Sen. Bob Fielding, an independent, said the bill will make power too expensive.
“It’s mums and dads that will be subsidizing wind-powered electricity, solar — these are very expensive,” he said.
Currently, 8 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources, including hydroelectric generators built late last century, according to the private Clean Energy Council.
Critics argue the target will make electricity more expensive in coal-rich Australia without curbing the amount of climate-warming carbon gases that the nation emits, as overall electricity consumption rises.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told the Senate on Wednesday that even with one-fifth of Australia’s electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020, the nation’s carbon gas emissions are projected to be 20 per cent higher than 2000 levels.
“The only way we’re going to be able to turn around the growth in our carbon pollution … is to put a firm legislated limit on the amount of carbon that we produce and make those who create the pollution pay for it,” Wong said.
Last week the Senate rejected a government-proposed bill that would have taxed industries’ carbon emissions starting in 2011 and slashed the country’s emissions by up to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. (By ROD McGUIRK/Associated Press Writer)
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