The government of the Australian Capital Territory is going where the federal politicians who march the corridors of Parliament House in the national capital fear to tread – to reach 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025.
The target was unveiled by ACT chief minister Andrew Barr at the ACT Labor Party conference on Saturday. The ACT already had a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, but decided to go the “whole hog” by 2025 to show leadership in the climate and clean energy debate that has been lacking at the federal level.
“Canberra can and should be a beacon for everyone who realises the world must act decisively now to stave off a future of catastrophic climate change,” Barr told the conference on Saturday.
The ACT is able to do this because it has no domestic fossil fuel industry – apart from federal lobbyists – within its territory, therefore little organised resistance to wind and solar projects.
Its target compares to federal Labor’s ambition to have 50 per cent renewables for the whole country by 2030. The Federal Coalition says 23.5 per cent renewables – its target for 2020 – is “more than enough”.
The states are already showing more ambition. Tasmania is virtually at 100 per cent renewables, South Australia has a 50 per cent renewable energy target for 2025 which it will meet well before then, and Queensland also has a 50 per cent renewable energy target. On Friday, Victoria announced plans to support the construction of wind turbines and rooftop solar to reboot its flagging renewables sector.
The ACT has already commissioned three wind farms totaling 200MW and three solar farms totaling 44MW that will take it to 60 per cent renewables by 2017, including rooftop solar.
A further 200MW of wind capacity and 50MW of next generation solar capacity (with storage) will take it to 90 per cent by 2020.
Energy minister Simon Corbell says an assessment will then be made on what will be needed to reach 100 per cent, depending on demand forecasts and growth of rooftop solar and energy efficiency, and further opportunities in large scale renewables.
Corbell says the intention is to provide the equivalent of 100 per cent of the territory’s electricity needs through renewable energy, not to become independent of the grid.
“We see this as much an economic development strategy as much as an environment strategy. That is what you hear when you travel overseas, from UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres, to the IEA (International Energy Agency), they recognise the economic opportunities.
He pointed to the investment in tertiary eduction, corporate headquarters, operational centres and skills training. Neoen which is building the Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia, is investing $7.5 million into the local TAFE, while Windlab, which is building one wind farm and will manage another, will grow its corporate HQ to 80 staff from 20 staff.