More than 70% back renewable energy target: Climate Institute

Fewer than one in 10 people would support any move by the Abbott government to wind back Australia's set renewable energy target.

An annual survey by the Climate Institute found more than 70 per cent of respondents supported the Renewable Energy Target of 20 per cent or more by 2020.

The RET mandates that 20 per cent of power will be derived from renewable sources such as solar and wind power by the end of the decade. It was enshrined in law as part of Labor's carbon tax package.

But it has become a flashpoint inside the Coalition. Environment Minister Greg Hunt, a supporter of the RET, is under pressure from Coalition hardliners to wind the target back to boost energy-intensive industries such as aluminium manufacturing.

A group of nearly 20 Coalition MPs has been established to agitate against the RET, and a review by businessman Dick Warburton, a climate sceptic, is due to be handed to the government within weeks. The review is expected to add to the push against the target.

A recent report by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Business Council of Australia, conducted by Deloitte Access Economics, estimated the RET would cost the economy $34 billion, leading to the loss of 4900 full-time jobs by 2020.

But the Climate Institute survey, conducted by JWS Research, which interviewed 1145 people, found strong support for renewable energy.

It found 60 per cent of people would favour an RET higher than 20 per cent by the end of the decade.

The percentage of people who backed an RET of 20 per cent and above has risen from 69 per cent in 2013 to 71 per cent this year.

Just 9 per cent wanted to see a cut in the target or its scrapping, while one in five respondents could not say one way or another.

Eight in 10 people said they preferred renewable energy to power sourced by coal, gas and nuclear.

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said public support for renewables had held up despite the political and business campaigns against the sector.

''Australians understand all our natural resources aren't underground,'' he said. ''They can see which way the wind is blowing - renewable energies are the future of the smarter, cleaner economies of the 21st century.

''Australians have got this right. If you accept the basics of climate change, we can't burn all our coal and gas - the lasting economic opportunities of the 21st century will be in renewable energy. Politicians of all colours should be wary of those betting all on coal and gas.''

The Climate of the Nation 2014 report will be launched on Monday.

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