The ACT government has announced it will fast-track the next round of its wind energy auctions, with another 200MW of capacity to be offered later this year.
Environment minister Simon Corbell made the announcement – foreshadowed last month by RenewEconomy – at the opening of the Clean Energy Summit in Sydney on Wednesday.
The ACT completed the first round of auctions of 200MW of capacity earlier this year, which resulted in contracts for three wind farms; one in South Australia and two in Victoria.
The first of the projects, the 20MW Coonooer Bridge wind project in Victoria, began construction last month – the first wind farm to be built in Australia since the election of the federal Coalition in 2013. The ACT contract underpinned the recent financial closure and go-ahead for the $440 million Ararat wind farm in Victoria.
Corbell also called for the federal Labor party to adopt the 50-50 proposal for emission reductions and renewable energy by 2030, saying it was essential amid the “hostile attitude towards renewable energy” by the federal government.
The ACT has a 90 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, and its scheme has underpinned nearly all the development in large-scale wind and solar over the last two years.
Other state Labor governments have also introduced – or are contemplating – large state-based targets. South Australia, already at 40 per cent renewables, aims for 50 per cent by 2025, although it will easily pass that well before time.
Victoria is about to release its own renewable energy action plan, which will look at post-2020 renewable targets, including the possibility of replicating the ACT-style auctions. Another alternative is for the government to buy renewable energy certificates on market, and use them to encourage development of renewable energy projects in their own state.
The ACT is also likely to commission 50MW of large-scale solar with storage under a parallel process that could include an auction, or negotiation with a small number of applicants. The ACT received 30 submissions representing nearly 1,000MW of potential projects in its expressions of interest process.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has also announced it will look to directly support 200MW of large-scale solar under its new funding priorities, and possibly use an ACT-style reverse auction to find the most competitive projects.
Corbell said the decision to fast track the wind energy auction follows renewed interest in Australian renewables, and the opportunity to capture good prices for projects and a good deal for consumers.
“What the ACT experience demonstrates is that there are significant policy options for Australia,” Corbell said.
“Our city shows what can be achieved quickly and at low cost to consumers – and until there is a compelling national consensus, states and territories must play a larger role.”
Kane Thornton, the CEO of the Clean Energy Council, said while the rest of the world was surging forward in renewable energy, the reverse was occurring in Australia, and it accounted for just 0.1 per cent of global clean energy investment in the last year.
Thornton said Australia has a “clapped out old energy fleet” that belonged more to an eastern bloc country than a modern economy.
He said the Abbott government’s attempts to frustrate developments “might slow down” Australia’s transition to renewable energy, “but it will not stop change.”
“What we need is clear vision for Australia, one that will link climate policy with energy policy,” he said.
Corbell said a 50-50 emissions reduction policy and renewable energy target by 2030 would accord with recommendations by the Climate Change Authority, private consultancy ClimateWorks, and what is happening internationally.
He said a national post-2020 goal had been supported by more than 340 local Labor branches.
“If Labor is to have a credible renewable energy agenda it should be starting with this resolution,” Corbell said. “We have seen how quickly a national policy architecture can be demolished, undermined or emasculated.
“We were reminded this week about the hostile attitude to renewable energy by this government and how (the industry) can be held hostage to this corrosive and partisan debate.”
Greens Senator Larissa Waters said the federal Coalition was clearly using stalling tactics on clean energy. “They can’t stop it, but they can slow it down.”
“We won’t have certainty (for the renewable energy industry) until Abbott is gone, or his party. The war on renewables will continue until election day.”