​Proposed RET changes welcomed by Portland Alcoa smelter

Yesterday the federal government announced its proposed changes to the Renewable Energy Target, which were welcomed by Alcoa’s Portland smelter.

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane yesterday told the National Press Club that the government would support a change to a “true” 20 per cent RET target for 2020.

There would also be exemptions for energy-intensive industries such as aluminium, cement and nickel production from the scheme.

"It won't be a 27 per cent renewable energy target, it will be 20 per cent renewable energy target," Fairfax reports Macfarlane as saying.

The 20 per cent target will mean a goal revised from an earlier target of 41,000 gigawatt hours of energy from renewable sources by 2020 to about 26,000 gigawatt hours. 

There has been pressure within the Coalition, led by Wannon MP Dan Tehan, to exempt aluminium producers from the RET.

Tehan’s electorate includes Alcoa’s Portland smelter, which has been hampered by bills estimated at $10 million annually under the RET, as well as low prices and strong competition from overseas producers.

“This is great news for Portland and the surrounding region,” the plant’s manager, Peter Chellis, told The Australian.

“We are doing everything we can to make the smelter internationally competitive and a 100 per cent RET exemption helps us to compete on a level playing field.”

Tehan said there must be negotiations with the opposition for the changes, but was confident a workable outcome which “will protect jobs in our traditional manufacturing industries” could be achieved.

The aluminium exemption was good news though, said the backbencher.

“For my electorate, for Portland Aluminium, that means a saving of $10 million in 2017, and given that we've seen two aluminium smelters close recently, including Point Henry this year, this is welcome news,” he told the ABC.

The Portland smelter employs about 540 full-time and 180 contractors, and exports over $500 million worth of product to Asia each year.

Image: AAP

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