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South Australia commits to zero net emissions by 2050

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South Australia has committed to a new target of zero net emissions by 2050, the state’s Premier, Jay Weatherill, has revealed.

The announcement was made on Wednesday, following the release of the recommendations of the South Australian Low Carbon Economy Expert Panel – a panel that included former federal Liberal leader John Hewson, ClimateWorks’ Anna Skarbek, and ANU’s Frank Jotzo.

Weatherill  is yet to map out exactly how the state will reach this target, or to respond to other recommendations in the report, including a 100 per cent renewables target by 2050. But he said being the first government to adopt a target of zero net emissions by 2050 gave the state a competitive advantage.

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“As we head towards the Paris Climate Change Conference, SA has an opportunity to place itself at the forefront as a leader in transitioning to a low-carbon economy,” he said.

“One example is the potential for SA to be a low-carbon electricity powerhouse and a net exporter of renewable energy.

“The state’s abundant renewable electricity, combined with its rich resource base and existing manufacturing expertise, mean that the state could be a natural base for energy intensive mining and manufacturing industries in a low carbon world,” Weatherill said.

In its recommendations, the panel said 100 per cent renewables could be achieved by the state “relatively quickly”, making South Australia a net exporter of renewables.

Renewables advocacy group Solar Citizens said the panel’s recommendation to have a solar panel on every rooftop was  particularly welcome.

As reported in the Adelaide Advertiser, the state’s climate minister, Ian Hunter, said the panel also identified the state’s strengths in the education and training of a workforce for a carbon-constrained future.

“This means providing assistance for workers moving from industries in decline into new opportunities is critical, as is support for communities affected by rapid change,” Hunter said.

“There are also significant innovative market opportunities for energy storage solutions from the state’s high penetration of solar PV,” he said, “with the potential to attract and develop technology suppliers and expertise in the state.

Interestingly, the report also recommended against the development of nuclear power in South Australia, with the panel finding new nuclear power plants were not cost effective for Australia’s smaller states.

Weatherill’s response, so far, to the panel’s findings have been welcomed by the Clean Energy Council, with CEC chief Kane Thornton describing the state’s plan to be a net exporter of renewable energy as “extremely welcome.”

“A long-term transition plan for a cleaner energy sector with strong market signals will attract major private sector investment to the state,” Thornton said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It is certainly achievable, and the South Australian example to date shows that much higher levels of renewable energy are possible throughout the rest of the country.”

Currently about 40 per cent of South Australia’s power is provided by renewable energy, the most of any mainland state.

“The report provides South Australia with a comprehensive plan of how it can share in the global boom in renewables,” said Solar Citizens campaigns director Dan Scaysbrook.

“The task for the government is to turn this into a reality by introducing laws that delivers on the report’s action plan.

“(It) can start to deliver on this commitment by ruling out the ‘solar tax’ proposed by SA Power Networks and setting a minimum, fair feed-in price for solar owners when they export surplus electricity back to the grid,” Scaysbrook said.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition also welcomed the zero emissions commitment, and has urged the SA government to back this up with the adoption of the panel’s recommendation of 100% renewables for the state.

“It’s great to see Premier Weatherill stepping up and committing South Australia to being carbon pollution free by 2050,” said Dan Spencer, South Australian campaigner with the AYCC.

“We now want to see Jay Weatherill take this opportunity and commit to powering SA with renewables,” he said.

The AYCC also said it hoped the SA government’s announcement would increase the pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to do more.

“This announcement comes just days before world leaders meet in Paris to discuss action on climate change and the community will be out in force this weekend calling for stronger action.

“We welcome the Premier’s announcement, it’s time for the Prime Minister to up his game,” Spencer said.  

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  • Beat Odermatt

    My concerns are that the Government of South Australia is talking big about targets far far away in the future. I fail to see any current legislation which would help achieving such a goal. I fail to see any actions against the attempt by SA Power Networks and other companies to introduce a anti-environment levies against people with solar panels. The Government of South Australia has spent close to Billion Dollar in building a desalination plant which is using a massive amounts of power and chemicals and has overlooked good environmental alternatives.
    I prefer to see actions instead of slogans.

    • maw56disqus

      I agree with the initial comments, the SA Gov doesn’t do much.
      The desalination plant is not a good case to quote on Energy use – I think you will find if you put the study in that the Piping of water from Morgan uses a lot of energy per litre and the subsequent chemical processing uses a lot of chemicals as Murray water isn’t as clean as sea water:-(

      • Beat Odermatt

        I understand that desalination can be 40 times as expensive as just pumping and filtering of fresh dam or river water. The filters for the reverse osmosis process are very expensive and have a short lifespan. Sea water needs to be dosed with a range of chemicals to enable it to be moved through the membranes and then chemicals need to be added again make it safe for drinking. Pumping of water alone is reasonable cheap and could be done using solar pumps in many locations.

        • maw56disqus

          Need to compare apples to apples. Say a specific example, the 356 km Morgan to Whyalla pipeline can transport 206 megalitres (ML) of water a day. With friction in the pipeline moving that much mass per day is a large amount of energy (pumps are 300kW rated), cost for a solar system to do it still big, plus cost of pipeline, pumps. Compare this to local desal plant in Whyalla itself for example, where the pumping is only a very short distance. Examples given in this report for example on a WA comparison:
          http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/43d0da9e-c594-4b28-ae03-3ebf6e0f69eb/files/moving-water.pdf

          • Beat Odermatt

            Yes, the article is talking about South Australia and not some pie in the sky dream like sending water from the Kimberleys to Perth. South Australia had an opportunity to use better water conservation combined with water harvesting to overcome water shortage. The problem is not a shortage of water but widespread waste of water. Coal fired power station are getting very cheap water which is used to make steam and for cooling. We are growing large areas of rice which requires massive volumes of good fresh water. It means our water is used to produce a crop in an arid land which should be grown in countries with plenty of rainfall. We are wasting water to grow cheap rice which helps to cause widespread poverty amongst rural people in Asia.
            We need more innovation, conservation and not more massive desalination plant.

  • Jack Gilding

    Any indication if they really mean zero net emissions (from electricity, transport and land use) or just the much more modest (but useful) goal of 100% renewable electricity? Just about everyone seems to be very sloppy about this distinction.

    • JeffJL

      No Jack, you are just being pedantic. It refers to electricity production. This distraction is often brought up by climate change deniers as a way of throwing mud.

      This is clear when they talk about the state being 40% supplied by renewable energy.

      There is a big hidden issue with the fact that electricity emissions are only part of our green house gas emissions and we will need to deal with those as well as the electricity emissions. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.