Federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor says the latest emissions productions published by the Morrison government show that Australia is on track to meet its 2030 emissions target without the use of controversial surplus emissions credits, but it also predicts a collapse in large-scale solar and wind investment.
The latest emissions projections published by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources on Thursday predict a mixed bag for Australia’s renewables sector – with the Morrison government forecasting that small-scale uptake will continue to surge, while investment in large-scale solar and wind projects collapses in the second half of the decade.
The updated emissions projections show that Australia has a remaining abatement task of between 56 and 123 million tonnes to achieve its stated 2030 target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent.
The projections point to Australia’s future greenhouse gas emissions falling due to increased uptake of renewable energy, driven primarily by uptake of small scale solar systems by households and businesses and large-scale projects driven by state government initiatives.
The projections forecast the installed capacity of rooftop solar, taken up by households and businesses, will triple over the next ten years growing from the 12GW of currently installed rooftop solar capacity to reach 36GW by 2030.
But while the projections provide a rosy outlook for the rooftop solar market, they also predict a collapse in investment in the large-scale renewables market
The projections suggest the market for large-scale solar and wind projects will experience a short lived surge over the next five years, each adding 5GW of generation capacity by 2025.
But then, according to the Morrison government’s projections, it is assumed that the construction new wind and solar projects will come to come to a sudden halt. The projections assume just 2GW of new wind capacity, and no new large-scale solar capacity is added between 2025 and 2030.
It is not clear what is driving this forecast, or whether it might be wishful thinking by Taylor, who has said on repeated occasions since becoming minister that there is too much wind and solar in the grid.
The prediction stands in contrast with several projections, including those produced by the Australian Energy Market Operator, and the Clean Energy Regulator, that have forecast strong growth in large-scale renewables investment.
It also belies the expectations of several state governments that are working to establish dedicated renewable energy zones, including a New South Wales plan to build 12GW of new clean energy projects over the next decade, and South Australia’s plan to host a similar amount of new capacity through its green hydrogen proposals.
Both NSW and South Australia have Liberal state governments.
The projections predict the market share of renewable electricity will almost double, growing to 42 per cent renewable electricity, by 2025. The growth then slows, but hits 50 per cent by 2030.
It is the second consecutive forecast that shows Australia on track to reach 50 per cent renewables by 2030, a milestone that the Morrison government labelled as ‘reckless’ when it was adopted as a target by the federal Labor party ahead of the 2019 federal election.
The projections assume very high penetration in some Australian states, including Tasmania’s shift to 100 per cent renewables, and South Australia hitting 95 per cent by 2025, and then slipping back to 94 per cent by 2030. The projections also suggest that Queensland will fall short of its 2030 emissions reduction target, reaching just 40 per cent.
The Morrison government believes that under a ‘high technology uptake scenario’, that aligns with what the Morrison government believes could be achieved by its Technology Investment Roadmap, that the 2030 target could be achieved, with emissions reductions exceeding that target by between 77 and 145 million tonnes.
It suggests the Morrison believes the Technology Roadmap could deliver around 200 million tonnes of emissions reductions over the next ten years – but has produced no modelling to substantiate how the cut will be achieved, or what parts of the economy will deliver the reductions.
With the projections significantly revising down the amount of emissions reductions needed to meet the 2030 targets, the Morrison government has flagged that it may not rely on a controversial plan to use leftover credits from its 2020 target to meet its subsequent 2030 target.
“Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap will guide an expected $18 billion of Government investment over the next 10 years in the next generation of energy technologies,” Taylor said in a statement. “Under a scenario aligned with the Technology Investment Roadmap, Australia is projected to beat its 2030 target by 145 million tonnes, without relying on past overachievement. Under this scenario, Australia’s emissions are projected to be 29 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.”
But environmental groups have argued that meeting lacklustre targets meant that Australia was not on track to reduce emissions in line with what is needed to limit global warming to safe levels.
“You’ve got to wonder what planet Angus Taylor thinks he is living on. Our beautiful country burned this year and our government’s pitiful efforts to kick the coal and gas habit are a global embarrassment. This sort of sneaky low-flying effort is irresponsible, inappropriate and ineffective,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter said.
“The Federal Government’s Technology Roadmap relies on unproven, expensive technology such as carbon capture and storage, rather than proven, reliable solar and wind. It’s a pathway to more extreme heat, worsening bushfires and severe harm to our neighbouring Pacific Island countries from climate change.”
The projections also confirm that emissions reductions caused by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, including a significant fall in transport emissions, are expected to be temporary. The projections predict that emissions from Australia’s gas industry are expected to recover, with annual fugitive emissions from fossil fuel production expected to hit an all-time high of 54 million tonnes in 2030.
However, the government has upped its predictions for electric vehicle uptake and now expects that 26 per cent of new vehicle sales in 2030 will be electric models. By 2030, the government has forecast that around 7 per cent of all light-vehicles will be electric models, with 1,320,000 vehicles on the road.