South Australia set sights on stunning new target of 500 pct renewables

South Australia wind

South Australia’s Liberal state government predicts the state could boast more than 500 per cent renewable energy by 2050 as it becomes a national and international exporter of clean energy.

South Australia has sourced a world-leading 60 per cent of its local grid demand from wind and solar over the past 12 months and aims to reach “net 100 per cent renewables” by 2030 – a target that even federal energy minister Angus Taylor admits could be largely achieved by 2025 (according to his department’s most recent emissions projections).

Now, the South Australia government wants to go even further, suggesting in its newly unveiled climate action plan that green hydrogen has the potential to deliver six times more clean energy than its annual electricity consumption that it could export to other states and countries.

“South Australia’s transition to a net zero emissions economy and a national and international exporter of clean energy could mean achieving a level of  renewable energy that is more than 500 per cent of current local grid demand by 2050,” says the document, launched by environment minister David Speirs on Wednesday.

It should be noted that South Australia’s electricity demand is likely to increase from where it is now – thanks to economic and population growth, and the electrification of transport and buildings (i.e. the removal of gas).

Still, the 500 per cent target is far beyond that contemplated by other governments. Tasmania has announced a goal of 200 per cent renewables by 2040 so it can export excess renewables, primarily through the proposed new Marinus link to the mainland.

And experts such as Professor Ross Garnaut and ARENA boss Darren Miller have talked of the possibility of Australia boasting 600-700 per cent renewables, a share that implies significant amounts of green energy exports that would replace coal and gas and satisfy international demand for zero emissions power and fuels.

In fact, the five year Climate Change Action Plan, which Speirs describes as the “most powerful vision for climate action” of any South Australian Government in history, was developed with input and advice from Garnaut and the Premier’s Climate Change Council.

It includes 68 actions, across seven focus areas, that build on the states leadership in renewable energy to increase investment and jobs in low emissions and climate resilient business and industry over the next five years, and a commitment to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“Demand for low emissions and climate smart products is growing, and South Australia is well equipped to use our abundance of sun, wind and other natural resources to take full advantage of this growing demand,” Speirs said in a statement.

“The Plan includes practical actions including renewable energy investment, greening our cities to cool them, supporting agricultural adaption and innovation, helping business and communities to address climate risk, adapting natural resources, and improving our ability to plan and prepare for more frequent bushfires and other natural hazards.”

“This Plan will lead us to be a stronger, more resilient export economy – both domestically by exporting power through interconnectors to NSW and Victoria and internationally as exporter of clean hydrogen and other low emissions products.”

Premier’s Climate Change Council Chair Martin Haese – a former Adelaide Lord Mayor – said the Climate Change Action Plan 2021-2025 outlines practical actions that government is taking now, as well as critical work to lay the foundation for the next five years.

“This Climate Change Action Plan will accelerate South Australia’s climate change response and help build a climate smart state that is more prosperous, liveable and resilient,” Haese said.

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