Australian states take charge of renewables transition

Source: Climate Council, Renewables Ready: States Leading the Charge

Aug 31 (Renewables Now) - States and territories in Australia are leading the country's accelerating shift to renewable energy, while the federal government "remains stuck at the starting block," according to the Climate Council.

The independent Australian think tank on Wednesday released a report, which tracks the progress states are making on renewable energy. In the absence of national energy and climate policy, it says, states and territories are the engine behind Australia's transition to renewable electricity and storage. Most states and territories have now adopted strong renewable energy targets and net zero emissions objectives. According to the study, their targets plus planned coal closures are expected to achieve the federal government's 2030 emissions reduction goal even with no action from the federal government.  

Action in Australia is needed as the country has an ageing and inefficient energy system, the report explains, with rising power prices due to a lack of new generation capacity, continuing policy uncertainty and increasing gas prices. Renewable energy can provide the cheapest new power plants, it says.   

The federal government is criticised in the study for not putting in place any new measures to support renewables since taking office and not having decided yet on renewable energy policy beyond 2020. The targets of states and territories, on the other hand, are broadly consistent with a minimum level of renewable energy that would allow Australia to play its part in tackling climate change.  

Among states and territories, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are the front-runners in the renewables race. They continue to lead in terms of share of renewable electricity and have the most renewable energy capacity per capita, excluding large hydro.

New South Wales and Queensland, meanwhile, are poised for a significant renewables expansion. The two states have the largest capacity and number of large-scale wind and solar power plants under construction. New South Wales has eight large-scale projects underway, totalling 1,018 MW, and Queensland has 10 projects, representing 784 MW.

In all of Australia 265 MW of large-scale renewable energy projects were completed in 2016 to bring the total of 6,286 MW.

Details about the state's targets and percentage renewable electricity are in the table:

State/Territory Renewable electricity (%) Renewable electricity targets Net zero emissions targets
South Australia 47 50% by 2025 Net zero emissions by 2050
ACT 22 100% by 2020 Net zero emissions by 2050
Tasmania 92 100% by 2022 Net zero emissions by 2050
Queensland 7 50% by 2030 Net zero emissions by 2050
Victoria 12 25% by 2020; 40% by 2025 Net zero emissions by 2050
New South Wales 17 - Net zero emissions by 2050
Western Australia 7 - -
Northern Territory 2 50% by 2030  -

The report gives the first three an A score. Queensland and Victoria are given B and said to be in catching up position, while the remaining three are still at the starting blocks.

Australia is a global leader in terms of rooftop solar per capita, the report notes. It boasts 5.6 GW of rooftop solar, as of April 2017, installed across 1.7 million households. The states that have the highest proportion of solar homes are Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.   

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Browse all articles from Plamena Tisheva

Plamena has been a UK-focused reporter for many years. As part of the Renewables Now team she is taking a keen interest in policy moves.

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