The Labor government in South Australia has announced it will increase its renewable energy target to 50 per cent by 2025 – up from the 33 per cent target that it has already met, six years ahead of scheduled date of 2020.
The announcement was made by Premier Jay Weatherill on Tuesday, saying that it was essential to help reach its target of $10 billion investment in “low carbon” generation by 2025.
According to government modelling, around $4.5 billion has already been committed in the state. South Australia already has nearly 1.5GW of wind energy – more than 40 per cent of the nation’s total, and more than 550MW of rooftop solar, or nearly one if four houses.
Together, those installations are likely to account for up to 40 per cent of demand in 2014/15, and wind farms such as the $1.5 billion Ceres projects, and others such as the 270MW Horndale project could take that investment to 50 per cent.
“This new target of half of the States power to be generated by renewable sources will create jobs and drive capital investment and advanced manufacturing industries,” Weatherill said in a statement.
But he said South Australia will only meet its target if the Federal Government maintains the current Renewable Energy Target Scheme arrangements.
“The sovereign risk created by the Federal Government’s unnecessary and unexplained review into the national RET has caused a number of projects to be placed on hold, putting many construction projects and ongoing jobs at risk,” Weatherill said.
“There are hundreds, if not thousands of SA jobs in the renewable energy sector – these are the growth areas we should be supporting, not undermining.”
(RenewEconomy asked the Premier’s press people if SA was considering an independent target of 50 per cent, regardless of federal policy – like the 90 per cent target of the ACT – but has not gotten a response as yet).
The Premier’s statement noted that updated numbers from the Australian Energy Market Operator expected this month are likely to show SA has exceeded the target of 33 per cent. The latest project, the 275MW Snowtown wind farm, has only just been commissioned, so will add to that figure in the current year.
“We took action at the local level, passing the nation’s first dedicated climate change legislation and were the first State with a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Weatherill said.
“We have demonstrated in South Australia is that, with the right policies and incentives, and with strong leadership and clear goals, even highly ambitious targets can be achieved and surpassed.
Solar Citizens Campaigns Director, Claire O’Rourke, said the SA achievement demonstrated the benefits of increasing opportunities for rooftop solar which helps households reduce their power bills.
“The SA Government has shown strong leadership in creating a solar revolution where nearly a quarter (23%) of South Australian homes are now powered by the sun,” O’Rourke said in a statement.
“The Abbott Government should look closely at what’s been achieved in South Australia and follow its lead by maintaining and growing the Target.
Meanwhile, the heads of Australia’s major large-scale solar projects converged on Canberra today, to continue their fight to save the Renewable Energy Target.
Business leaders from international companies including First Solar, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and SunPower will meet with key ministers and parliamentarians to remind them how crucial the RET has been, and continues to be, to get large-scale solar projects up and running in Australia.
“We’ll be telling them that if the RET is slashed, the future looks grim for large-scale solar in Australia,” Clean Energy Council acting chief Kane Thornton said.
“Already, investment in renewable energy projects has drastically reduced, thanks to the uncertainty surrounding the RET generated by the Federal Government’s Warburton review”, Thornton said.
“Investors in utility-scale solar projects need to feel the funds they are committing are secure before they will come on board,” said SunPower Australia’s Wilf Johnston.
Key federal government cabinet ministers are expected to decide in coming days whether they will keep the RET as it is, or not.
More than 1,000 renewable energy companies, workers and supporters have also signed up to attend major events in Australia’s capital cities this Friday to protest the axing of the RET.
The event marks the first time Solar Citizens, the Clean Energy Council, Australian Solar Council, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Australian Wind Alliance have united to protest the unprecedented attacks on renewable jobs, growth and investment.