* Poll shows solid support for govt's carbon reduction
* Steelmaker warns of potential cost to industry
(Adds detail throughout)
By James Grubel
CANBERRA, Aug 17 Australian laws to require 20
percent of energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 are
set to pass through parliament by late Thursday after
government talks with opposition lawmakers on the bill on
The clean energy industry expects the laws will unlock $22
billion of investment in solar, wind and geothermal energy,
after the government backed down on linking compensation for
industry to its emissions trading laws, which were rejected on
"The government is determined to do all that we are able to
get this legislation through," Climate Change Minister Penny
Wong told Australia radio, adding she would negotiate with the
opposition and Greens to make sure the laws were endorsed.
The renewable energy laws target 45,000 gigawatt hours of
clean energy by 2020, or 20 percent of Australian energy.
Latest government data said renewable energy accounted for
about 5 percent of Australia's total energy consumption.
Wong has announced interim compensation from January 2010
for electricity intensive exporting industries, such as
aluminium smelters Alcoa Inc. (AA.N), Alumina Ltd (AWC.AX) and
Hydro Aluminium (NHY.OL).
The interim compensation will cover the industries until
carbon emissions trade laws, and associated compensation
schemes, are passed through parliament.
Wong said she expected aluminium smelters, silicon
producers and newsprint manufacturers, would be eligible for
compensation, which kicks in for activities which use 3,000
megawatt hours of electricity for every A$1 million ($826,000)
Without the compensation, the Australian Aluminium Council,
which represents the country's six aluminium smelters, said the
industry would face extra costs of about A$700 million over the
next 10 years.
Meanwhile, a new poll found most Australians want the
government to push ahead with its carbon emissions trading
scheme, even if this means calling a snap election to overcome
parliamentary opposition to it.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd could have the option of calling
a snap election if parliament's upper house Senate rejects the
laws a second time from November 16. [ID:nSYD16743].
A Nielsen poll in Fairfax newspapers found 55 percent
backed Rudd's plan to push ahead with carbon trade laws, with
only 29 percent preferring the laws be delayed until after
December's global climate talks in Copenhagen. The poll showed
Rudd's Labor party still held an election-winning 56-44 percent
lead over the conservative opposition, though Labor's support
in the two-party vote that decides elections edged 2 points
lower from June.
Rudd has said he does not want to call an early election,
but some political experts say he will never rule that option
out, especially with the opposition trailing badly in opinion
The opposition's campaign against the government's scheme
received a boost on Monday when Australia's top steel-maker,
BlueScope Steel (BSL.AX), said the government's plan would cost
the firm up to $1.16 billion and put the entire local steel
industry at risk.
"It would severely damage our competitiveness, putting
domestic investment, Australian jobs and the Australian steel
industry at high risk," it said in its annual results
U.S. oil major ExxonMobil (XOM.N) also called on the
Australian government to scrap the carbon trade plan and
consider a carbon tax regime as an alternative.
"A carbon tax is more transparent to consumers, will
achieve greater environmental benefits and is more difficult to
manipulate than a cap and trade programme," said ExxonMobil
Australia's chairman, John Dashwood.
For other stories on Australia's emissions trade and
climate debate, click on: [ID:nSYD240684].
(Additional Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Sugita