The Clean Energy Council has added its voice to the calls for the government response to the devastating Covid-19 economic impact to include investment in no-regret projects such as rooftop solar for low income houses and emergency services, battery storage, and micro-grids and putting in place key infrastructure identified by the Integrated System Plan, the country’s 20-year energy blueprint.
The calls by the CEC echo that made earlier this week by The Australia Institute – see our story Morrison needs to be smarter, more creative, more sustainable with Covid-19 response , and our latest Energy Insiders podcast – Energy Insiders Podcast: Covid-19 and the electricity grid – and comes as key international institutions such as the International Energy Agency and the United Nations, along with numerous NGOs.
“We are lobbying the federal and state and territory governments to make renewable energy and energy storage a key part of their Covid-19 response packages to both stimulate the Australian economy and protect households and businesses from high electricity costs,” Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton said in a letter to stakeholders on Monday.
Among the possible investments cited by the CEC were:
Governments should directly fund the installation of solar on public housing and low-income rental housing. Solar will reduce the electricity bills of people who need the most support and employ a large number of electricians and tradespeople quickly.
Governments should roll out solar and storage backup for all critical state infrastructure, such as police facilities, fire stations and telecommunications.
The government should also add to its instant asset write-off threshold (lifted already from $30,000 to $150,000, and accessible to businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million by including a new rebate for solar batteries for homes and businesses.
State and territory governments should accelerate the rollout of rooftop solar and batteries for schools, childcare facilities, police stations and other government buildings.
Governments should accelerate and increase funding for the installation of microgrids, stand-alone power systems, community batteries and other programs for bushfire recovery and to build resilience for future summers.
Thornton said these initiatives would help to save jobs in the renewable energy industry, boost the economy and reduce energy costs for consumers.
He also called on the Queensland government to accelerated its long-delayed RE400 program and for all governments to implement the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan to support large-scale renewable energy and energy storage projects.
This included strategic interconnections and upgrades to the transmission network, such as the NSW and Queensland interconnector and the many opportunities in Victoria.
The latest ISP – in its draft form – maps a range of scenarios that lays out a plan to deal with the energy transition, with most scenarios from “central” to “step change” assuming a shift to between 70 and 90 per cent renewables over the next 20 years.
Thornton told RenewEconomy there was a lot of confusion in the industry about how wind and solar and storage projects were placed, and the implications for further lockdowns. This could include rooftop solar, but the future was not clear, and the definition of “essential services” differed from state to state.
“The economic response to Covid-19 provides a golden opportunity for governments to accelerate such plans, providing much-needed stimulus to the economy while simultaneously accelerating the move to a cheaper, more reliable energy system,” Thornton said.
“The build-out of a robust high-voltage transmission network will enable jobs and investment in regional Australia at a critical time, while paving the way for the ongoing energy transition from centralised to more distributed generation. New transmission will unlock investment and construction in new renewable generation in regional areas throughout the country.”