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Graph of the Day: States lead on renewables, but who leads the states?

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The lead role Australia’s state and territory governments are increasingly taking in the nation’s shift to renewable energy – in the complete absence of any long-term policies at the federal level – is the subject of a new report from the Climate Council – along with some pretty neat graphs and charts showing which state is doing what, and how fast.

As the report notes, and the 2017 score card below shows, all of Australia’s states and territories – with the exception of Western Australia – now have strong renewable energy targets and/or net zero emissions targets in place.

In other words: Western Australia is now the only state or territory in Australia without a target for renewable energy or net zero emissions.

ClimateCouncilScorecard

Over the last year, it says, Victoria (40% by 2025), the Northern Territory (50% by 2030) and Tasmania (100% by 2022) have put in place strong new renewable energy targets, while New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria have all adopted targets for net zero emissions by 2050.

But who is walking the walk? South Australia, of course, is the clear front-runner on renewables, according to the Climate Council scoring system, which ranks the states and territories based on a number of factors, including the scope of their targets, their percentage of installed renewable electricity generation, their number of solar households, and their progress on all of the above over the past 12 months.

SA is followed by ACT and Tasmania, who are neck and neck. Then come Queensland and Victoria, who are listed as playing catch-up. New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, meanwhile, remain “at the starting blocks” –  although the report notes that NSW (alongside Queensland) has the greatest capacity and number (respectively) of large-scale wind and solar plants under construction in 2017.

Most improved states and territories was awarded to NSW and the NT, which the Climate Council said had “seen the most dramatic positive shift in policy support for renewable energy and emissions reductions” since its 2016 report.

“Within the last year, all Australian states and territories except Tasmania have increased or kept constant their proportion of electricity from renewable energy,” the report says, and are now turning their focus to energy storage to facilitate the shift to higher levels of renewables.

So much so, they will wind up doing most of the heavy lifting on the federal government’s own, rather conservative, climate targets.

“State and territory targets, plus existing and announced coal closures (such as Liddell Power Station) are expected to deliver the federal government’s 2030 emissions reduction target of 26-28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels, even without any action from the federal government,” the report says.

ClimateCouncilMAP

But that is not to say the federal government should be let off the hook. In comments at the launch of the report on Thursday, Climate Councillor Andrew Stock, who co-authored the report, stressed that leadership on renewables at a federal level remained crucial to Australia’s progress in decarbonising its energy sector.

“(A federal clean energy target) would be the icing on the cake,” said Stock. “Paris is a commitment that goes beyond 2030. We need to be able to take our electricity sector emissions to zero well before 2050.

“If we don’t get a federal strategy in place, backed by a Clean Energy Target, we’re not going to see continued investment (in renewables),” he said.  

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  • Joe

    The Federal COALition and a Clean Energy Target……that will never work!

  • Ian

    But the federal government have been instrumental in at least 6GW of solar installations. By allowing the electricity incumbents to game the market, retailers to obfuscate and add huge margins to their retail offerings and by strangling the cheap utility scale renewables market they have made grid electricity unaffordable and thus promoted distributed solar. Not a bad effort really.

    • Just_Chris

      Absolutely, politics is a funny business they almost never achieve what they set out to do. Look a George bush his oil wars forced the price of that so high that it kick off a massive move away from that fuel source.

    • Roger Franklin

      Ian – 100% agree. Made the “Off-Grid” decision a no-brainier, particularly as we have at least another 2 years of watching and listening to the current group of “Fossil’s” , however even then it is difficult to see any changes as the alternative team of “Fossil’s” appear similar. The incumbent energy sector have the situation sorted – a few trips to Canberra for a Coffee and Cake every year and job done!

  • Farmer Dave

    I’m a supporter of the Climate Council, and I think the idea of a State by State report card is an excellent idea. However, I do have a number of quibbles with this report. Firstly – and this is not the first time I have grumbled about this matter – the report is NOT about “renewable energy”, it is about “renewable electricity”, which is the easy part of the energy transition task. I really wish that all expert commentators, such as all the contributors to this excellent site, the Climate Council, the Australia Institute, etc would all take a blood oath to never use “energy” when they mean “electricity”. We do not help ourselves in our current predicament if we gloss over the challenges we face by using vague terminology.

    My second thought is that it would be great to see a similar state by state review of efforts made to reduce oil use. Measures looked at could be the facilitation of electric vehicle take-up, the use of electric vehicles in government car and bus fleets, the building of new electrified light and heavy rail systems, efforts to reduce reliance on high density aviation routes, and so on. I don’t think the resulting merit order would be the same as in the current report.

    A final comment is that the current Tasmanian government is made to look quite good by this comparison, when the truth is that they have not done much – they are coasting on last century’s hydroelectricity developments.

    • neroden

      You make a good terminology point. However, the main types of non-electrical energy we use are:
      — transport fuels: need to electrify cars, trucks, buses, trains, boats, and ships (which can all be done now) and eventually planes
      — heating: can be done electrically now and is in most of Australia
      — industrial processes: can be done electrically now and is in some places

      So the path to 100% renewable energy is in fact “use more electricity”. When we’re done, energy will be == electricity with very little difference. I think this causes some of the terminology sloppiness.

  • neroden

    The NT has such ridiculously high renewables potential. Low population, enormous amounts of space, lots of sunlight. I’m glad the new government is making a push, but frankly they should be able to get to 100% in a couple of years if they put in the money.