The Australian Capital Territory will continue to lead Australia in its push to 100 per cent renewable energy after the Liberal Party’s attempt to wrest power failed in the weekend’s election, delivering Labor power for the fifth consecutive poll.
The ACT aims to source the equivalent of 100 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2020, and has already locked in the contracts with the solar and wind farm projects that will deliver that target.
Its policies have become a blueprint for other Labor states to follow, with both Victoria and Queensland to adopt its reverse auction programs which deliver lower prices and certainty for investors.
The Liberals initially opposed the policy on the basis of what it claimed were outlandish costs involved, and then agreed to support the target after admitting it would not add significant costs to consumers and after seeing overwhelming public support – 90 per cent from Canberrans.
However, after the push against renewable energy from Coalition parties at federal and state level after the recent blackout in South Australia, it was feared that the ACT Liberals would come under increasing pressure to change their mind.
Coalition politicians in South Australia, NSW, Queensland and of course federally have argued that high renewable energy targets will result in soaring costs and blackouts. A report for the Labor government in Queensland last week said that neither claim was true, and that its 50 per cent renewable energy target would lead to lower costs and no risk to energy security or reliability.
The ACT target is well under way with two solar farms and two wind farms already complete, and another solar farm and another five wind projects under construction or about to begin. A battery storage program and a hydrogen fuel trial are also under way.
The biggest issue in this poll was in fact Labor’s light rail proposal, but the Liberals failed to make any headway, suffering a swing of 2.6 per cent. In Gungahlin, which is to be linked to the city centre and ultimately Woden by the light rail, Labor actually improved their position.
Labor will likely govern in partnership with the Greens, who delivered a one seat majority in the previous parliament and may help deliver a majority of between three and five seats on this occasion in a legislative assembly expanded from 17 seats to 25.
There is an outside chance that Labor will be able to govern in its own right or that the Greens, with at least two seats, will decide to sit on the cross-bench and exert the balance of power. The party with the biggest vote gain was the Sex Party, which stands an outside chance of winning a seat in Brindabella.