Two of the world's biggest wind turbine makers have weighed in against the National Energy Guarantee, calling for a more ambitious target because it may leave the electricity sector contributing only a tiny portion of Australia's Paris climate goal.
GE, the company that built the world's first ever coal-fired power station, said the Turnbull government's setting of an emissions reduction target of 26 per cent of 2005-levels by 2030 fell far short of what the power sector could deliver.
“The new target being set will see [the power sector] contribute about one-twentieth of the emissions reduction required to meet our Paris commitments," Steven Oswald, head of GE's Australian renewables, said. "It’s a sector that can do so much more."
John Titchen, managing director of the Australian operations of Chinese turbine giant Goldwind, echoed Mr Oswald's concerns, though placed the electricity industry at a slightly higher level at "less than a tenth" of the total contribution needed by Australia to meet its international commitments.
"So there's another more than 90 per cent of the task that is not really defined as to how it is going to be addressed," Mr Titchen told an energy summit in Sydney last week.
The two companies' position is more forthright than some of the industry groups, such as the Clean Energy Council, which generally support the policy while calling for more ambition.
The Turnbull government is pressing states and territory governments to sign off on the plan at a meeting in Sydney on Friday that it would then take to the federal Coalition partyroom for approval the following Tuesday.
Federal Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, dismissed these concerns.
"The report of the independent Energy Security Board makes clear that an additional 38 million tonnes of abatement will occur under the government's target, and that without a concrete mechanism in place there is no guarantee that emissions reduction will follow," he said.
Mr Titchen also questioned whether the power sector would even meet the 26 per cent reduction since the scheme only covers the eastern states that are part of the National Electricity Market. Generators in WA and the NT, supplying about 20 per cent of national demand, would be able to continue to increase emissions.
Both executives noted that the industry had rebounded after stalling in 2014 when the Abbott government reviewed the Renewable Energy Target, ultimately cutting the 2020 goal by about one-fifth to 33,000 gigawatt-hours of clean energy by the end of this decade.
Mr Oswald said there were several "lost years...The target was compressed into the last three years of the scheme, which caused such an upswing" in the industry now.
He said the industry was now "broadly supportive of the framework of the National Energy Guarantee" but there remained concerns about any last-minute additions to the policy that could “soften the drivers to reduce emissions”.
Mr Titchen's worries including the difficulty any future government will have when it comes to lifting the emissions target – or other settings – in the future.
The course we set now "is the course we're going to live with for some period," Mr Titchen told the summit's dinner last week. "I'm not sure that we're going to make an easy correction if we don't get it right at this point."
GE and Goldwind are vying for bragging rights as the biggest suppliers of wind energy in Australia.
GE currently has the largest number of simultaneous wind farm construction projects in Australian history, with six projects comprising 311 turbines, that would generating 1.1 gigawatts, or the equivalent of the power needs of about 620,000 homes.
Goldwind's Stockyard Hill Wind Farm in Victoria will be the largest in the southern hemisphere and alone could supply about 390,000 homes. The company is on track to supply more than a million homes when current or completed projects are taken into account.