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Australian Government Renders Clean Energy 'Uninvestable

MELBOURNE, January 13, 2015 - Australia's large scale investment in renewables slumped by 88 percent in 2014 to the lowest level in over a decade. The Australian government's disinterest in green energy has made Australia almost a no-go zone for large scale renewable investment, according to a study released Wednesday.

Large scale investment in renewable energy slumped by 88 percent in 2014 to just US$240 million, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The figure is the lowest since 2002.

“We recorded zero investment in the wind sector,” BNEF lead analyst Kobad Bhavnagri told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Large scale renewable projects in Australia are now “uninvestable,” the report concluded.

Bhavnagri attributed the collapse in investment to dwindling interest in the government's Renewable Energy Target (RET) from Prime Minister Tony Abbott's administration. Australia's RET currently sits at 41 terawatt-hours annually by 2020, though Abbott has called for this target to be slashed to 27 terawatt-hours.

Industry groups have warned if Abbott eventually succeeds in cutting the RET, investment in renewables is likely to nosedive further.

“Its controversial review panel recommended scrapping the target or radically diminishing it in August 2014, but the government is yet to announce a position that can gain approval of the parliament and restore confidence to the sector,” The Australian newspaper quoted Bhavnagri as stating.

The industry and science ministry has responded to the report by arguing proposed changes to the RET would better reflect market realities, and promote investment.

Yet the report suggests the 2014 figures aren't only bad by Australian standards, but also put the country behind much of the world.

“In 2013, Australia was the 11th largest investor in large-scale clean energy projects and in 2014 it slid to 39th,” Bhavnagri said, according to public broadcaster ABC.

He continued by stating some of the countries that beat Australia include Myanmar, Honduras and Costa Rica.

Overall, in 2014 Australia's investment in renewable energy ranging from large scale to smaller initiatives declined 35 percent.

The report indicates households and businesses investing in small scale solar power systems kept overall investment figures from plunging lower.

The downturn bucked international trends. According to the report, global investment in renewables increased by 16 percent in 2014.

Shadow minister for environment Mark Butler has responded to the report by accusing Abbott of an “anti-renewable ideology.”

Speaking to the ABC, he said, “It beggars belief that the Abbott government is so desperate to stymie the industry's growth.”

“There are endless opportunities presented by investing in and developing renewable energy and Australia is ideally placed to take advantage of these opportunities,” he stated.

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