Canberra’s green machines: ACT reaches 100% renewable electricity target

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In the week that sees the Canberra Raiders heading to their first rugby league grand final in 25 years, it is Canberra’s other green machines that have achieved their own milestone, with the national capital now officially 100% powered by renewable electricity.

The ACT has become the first Australian state or territory – with the exception of hydro-rich Tasmania – to source the equivalent of all its electricity from renewable sources, and in doing so has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by around 40 per cent and given a significant boost to the Canberra economy.

In line with the contracted awarded via a reverse auction to identify the cheapest sources of renewable electricity, ACT is now purchasing the electricity produced by the Hornsdale Stage 3 wind farm in South Australia. The supply from the 109MW wind farm has now tipped the ACT over the 100% renewable electricity milestone.

By shifting all of the ACT’s electricity to renewable sources, mostly wind in NSW, South Australia and Victoria, but also some solar located in and around the Canberra region, the ACT has been able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by around 40 per cent, making a substantial contribution towards the territory’s goal of reaching zero net emissions by 2045.

The ACT is now turning its attention to other emission sources, recently unveiling plans to go electric on transport and on buildings, including a proposal to shift homes and businesses away from gas and towards electricity. For that, and to deal with a growing population, the ACT is about to tender for another 250MW of wind and solar, including battery storage.

“This is a huge achievement in consolidating the ACT’s reputation as Australia’s renewable energy capital and is a significant milestone in achieving our ultimate goal of zero net emissions by 2045,” ACT energy minister Shane Rattenbury said.

“The Hornsdale 3 windfarm is the last of our 10 large scale renewable energy generators that are spread across the country and are helping to power the ACT on clean energy at low prices.”

Owner and operator of the Hornsdale wind farm said that it was pleased with its contribution to the ACT’s renewable electricity target.

“Neoen is incredibly proud to have supported the ACT in meeting its 100% renewable energy target, by supplying electricity produced by our great Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia. Our aim is to continue to support Australia’s energy transition by providing firm and affordable power 24-hours a day to Australians, creating a cleaner future for all,” managing director of Neoen Australia Louis de Sambucy said.

Analysis of the electricity price data released by the ACT government has shown that the contractual arrangements with the renewable energy projects have helped to generate electricity cost savings for Canberra households.

These savings amounted to $4.3 million in the first three months of 2019, as the contracts effectively shielded Canberra energy users from surging wholesale electricity prices.

Source: ACT Government

In reaching the milestone, the ACT becomes the first major jurisdiction in Australia to achieve 100% renewable electricity, with an analysis from The Australia Institute finding that Canberra will become the first major city outside of Europe to switch its power supply from one supplied primarily by fossil fuels to one powered completely by wind and solar.

“While some federal parliamentarians are trying to hit the brakes Australia’s energy transition, even Parliament House will soon run on 100% renewable energy,” The Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director Richie Merzian pointed out.

“This shows that states and territories are leading the way on climate action while national governments often lag behind. Australia is a perfect example.”

Earlier in September, the ACT government confirmed that it will seek proposals to supply up to an additional 250MW of renewable energy capacity to the ACT, as the territory seeks to maintain its status of being 100% renewable powered as it looks to shift more of its energy use, including gas and transport, on to the electricity grid.

This additional capacity will also be paired with large-scale battery storage, with a 20MW/40MWh battery storage system to be co-located with the new project.

“With our recently announced new renewable electricity auction, we are now in a position where we are ready to maintain 100% renewable electricity from 2020 into the future. Reaching this feat has proven that climate change action is both achievable and affordable,” Rattenbury added.

“Our four renewable electricity auctions have also helped bring in more than $500 million worth of investment into the ACT region and help make us a centre for high-skilled renewable sector jobs.”

Through the arrangements with renewable energy developers under the 100% renewable electricity plan, the ACT government has also been successful at attracting companies to relocate their headquarters, or at least part of their Australian-based operations, to Canberra.

Companies including Windlab and Neoen have each established offices in the national capital and strong renewables investment has supported local firms, such as ITP Renewables and virtual power plant provider Reposit Power, grow their base in the ACT providing additional economic benefits to the territory.

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