Australia targets 20 pct renewable energy by 2020


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2009 at 3:30 AM EDT

Australia's government will ask the Senate Tuesday to approve plans to produce 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 after the house rejected a proposed carbon trading scheme.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's centre-left Labor government passed the ambitious proposal to use green power to generate a fifth of the country's electricity in parliament's lower house late Monday.

But it faces a potential hurdle in the Senate, where independents hold the balance of power and can scupper the government's bid to have the renewables target in place before UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

The conservative opposition joined forces with the Greens and independent senators last week to reject an emissions trading scheme aimed at cutting carbon pollution by five to 25 percent over the next decade.

However, Greens senator Christine Milne indicated the renewables target would receive a warmer reception than the emissions scheme because it was the best option being put forward by the government.

"There's no way we're going to jeopardise it," she told public broadcaster ABC.

The renewables target, which works by forcing electricity companies to buy a portion of their power from renewable sources, will be submitted to the Senate on Tuesday and is expected to be voted on later this week.

The government originally bundled the emissions scheme and renewables target together in the same legislative package but was forced to separate them after its defeat in the Senate last week.

Rudd warned late Monday that the Senate risked damaging the economy if it rejected the emissions trading scheme again when it is re-submitted to the upper house in November.

"We'll be denying Australia a whole new set of economic opportunities for the future," Rudd told a business forum.

"We'll be also inviting the possibility of punitive tariffs being imposed on this economy in the future by other economies which join the cap-and-trade system of the future."

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