States Take Charge

This post was originally published by Australian Solar Council and can be found here

Here’s a thought: if the revised-down RET of 33,000 GWh by 2020 is within reach why not reinstate the original target of 41,000 GWh ditched by the coalition? That was ASC Government Policy Manager Wayne Smith’s reaction to the glowing solar scorecard presented by Mark Williamson from the office of the Clean Energy Regulator. He described the performance of solar energy as “extraordinary” saying “If the pace continues we will meet the [large scale] L-RET by the end of 2017.”

What’s needed to meet the 2020 RET is 6000 MW of new build from January 2016 and capacity and early commitments show Australia  is well on the way with more than 3300 MW announced this year alone, Williamson said, so we are locked a long way into the target. “Solar is a key player.”

Details of the performance in the renewable sector are laid out in the CER’s newly tabled report Tracking Towards 2020: Encouraging renewable energy in Australia.

The states are clearly leading the charge. Along with Victoria’s RET targets of 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025 (which will soon be backed by legislation), Victoria has set a goal for net zero emissions by 2050. Simon Corbell, Renewable Energy advocate for the Victorian government says goal setting with clear targets is vital for progress and that transition would not happen without it.

New programs include large scale energy storage to the tune of $20 million for two 20 MW plants by January 2018 to supply 100 MWh in a world first storage system to strengthen grid reliability; pumped hydro and certificate purchases for renewable energy.

Within the state budget was provision for a centre for new energy technologies for industry and university collaboration and development of thought leadership; also $15 million over three years for the demonstration of microgrid technologies.

The Energy Minister this week stated “We [Victoria] want to be the new energy technology centre for the country, building an energy system we need that is sustainable. A boost in jobs and energy sit together, not in opposition.”

“The aim is to provide clean reliable secure and affordable energy.”

Queensland Director-General of the Department of Energy and Water Supply Paul Simshauser casts renewable as “the only game in town … with six months of “unprecedented activity in renewable energy developments” including 1000 MW of projects in his state.

“State governments have a strategic role to play beyond 2020 as well, when the RET finishes [and] The Finkel Review gets us thinking about integrating renewable resources.”

Sustainability Minister Shane Rattenbury wants the ACT to be the “cleanest state by 2020” with 100 per cent renewables and says they will meet that target while setting “record low prices (fixed prices for 20 years for citizens) as well as a great environmental outcome.”

Are the states competing with each other with their fast-moving forward-thinking agendas? Friendly rivalry is rife says South Australia Environment Minister Ian Hunter who was introduced as a powerful renewables advocate. Hunter told delegates at the Solar and Storage conference that China is taking great interest in investing in his state’s large-scale storage aspirations.

In the absence of a federal government plan South Australia has developed its own energy plan and “External attacks have not fazed South Australia, the energy crisis has prompted the public to invest in their own energy supplies.”

The last word goes to ASC’s Wayne Smith: “Where would Australia be on climate change and emission controls without the states’ leadership in clean energy developments?”

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