Australia will have to increase its Renewable Energy Target, and extend it beyond 2020, if it hopes to meet its commitments under the Paris global climate agreement, the Clean Energy Council has warned.
In a comprehensive energy blueprint released on Friday, the CEC details the policy levers it believes are required to meet Australia’s commitment to emissions reduction targets that will help keep a global temperature rise to well below 2°C over the course of this century.
“In line with achieving these targets, the decarbonisation and modernisation of Australia’s electricity system needs to occur by no later than 2050. This means a national Power Shift is required, away from an outdated power system towards a modern, 21st century energy system.”
Power Shift: A Blueprint for a 21st Century Energy System, outlines the policy needed to “supercharge” the nation’s shift to a zero emissions electricity system by 2050, including the 100 per cent uptake of smart and clean energy systems in homes and businesses.
To drive this rapid change, the report recommends “long-term and transparent” carbon reduction targets, policy to drive the “orderly closure” of coal-fired power plants, and “strong and long-term renewable energy targets that ensure the continued and steady deployment of renewable energy.”
The report says these goals can be achieved by an increase and extension of the Renewable Energy Target beyond 2020, and by supporting innovation that delivers the next generation of clean energy solutions.
“Australia’s Renewable Energy Target provides a fantastic opportunity to create some 15,200 jobs and $40.4 billion in investment out to 2020,” Thornton said in a statement on Friday.
“So much more can be achieved beyond 2020, with a clear commitment and strong policy and regulatory settings,” he said.
According to the Blueprint, there is “no question” that building more large-scale renewable energy beyond the current 33,000 GWh RET is achievable – the CEC points to modelling of a “conservative scenario” that would deliver around 35 per cent renewables by 2030 – and that doing so would provide greater confidence that the industry would be able to accelerate the roll-out rate of renewable energy beyond 2020.
“Meeting higher targets than this,” the paper adds, “would require construction rates to increase beyond the level expected to 2020 under the current RET. This is achievable given substantially increased capability and technological innovation expected over coming years, delivering cheaper power from a more diverse range of renewable sources.”
The CEC also calls for “smart regulation” to create a more competitive national energy market, to empower consumers and unlock the commercial opportunities to transition to smarter, cleaner energy technologies.
And it makes a case against the Coalition’s planned defunding of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, via its recommendation of appropriate support for institutions and for R&D, demonstration, and innovative financing for the clean energy sector.
This is in line with policy proposed by Labor, which last week announced an extra $206 million of funds to encourage the development of solar towers and storage, and plans to remove the restrictions on investing placed on the CEFC, and to protect ARENA and give it more powers and encouragement to push into new technologies.
The CEC’s final recommendation is to cement public support for renewables by unlocking their benefits for local communities and consumers.
“Australia is ready for a quantum shift in the way our power is produced and delivered to our wall sockets,” said Thornton.
“We can deliver a zero-carbon energy system by 2050 and renewable energy on every residential rooftop in the country.
“It means a smarter system that gives people more control of their electricity than ever before, and home energy storage that lets people maximise the value of the energy that is produced by technologies like solar power. And it means ever-more efficient innovations in energy productivity that enable us to do much more with less,” he said.
Thornton said that while Australia’s brown and black coal power plants had served the country well over many decades, some were now “more at home in the Eastern Bloc.”
“As these plants phase out, Australia can take advantage of our world-class sun, wind, waves and bioenergy that will deliver the lowest-cost form of new electricity generation,” he said.
“We can make these changes without compromising our prosperity and our way of life. Power Shift is
economically responsible and will help Australia meet its climate commitments while ensuring we reliably satisfy our thirst for heating, cooling, hot water, laptops and smartphone recharging.
“The longer we wait, the harder this transition becomes and the more likely we are to get lost along the way.”