Industry Minister backs PM on renewable energy target

INDUSTRY Minister Ian MacFarlane has defended the Abbott Government's "real 20%" position on the renewable energy target, but promised talks will continue this week.

After setting out a starting position for talks last week, Mr MacFarlane told ABC TV today the government's position had not changed.

He said as electricity consumption had fallen 15%, the renewable energy target must also follow suit.

But Labor frontbenchers last week repeatedly said the change represented a "40% cut" to the actual target, down from the promised 41,000 gigawatt hours of electricity to come from renewable energy.

But Mr MacFarlane said he did not "buy that argument"; saying the government was committed to the original 20% target, or 27,000 gigawatt hours.

He said rather, if electricity consumption was to rise in future years, the government would stick to the 20% figure and increase the RET accordingly.

Mr MacFarlane did not go into detail about talks with Labor, begun last week, but said he was prepared to have a "straightforward negotiation" with the Opposition, in order to bypass the unpredictable Senate crossbench, as both houses prepare to meet this week.