The Australian renewable energy race: which states are winning or losing?

18 Nov 2014

Provides the latest research on which Australian States and Territories are winning the race to renewables - and which are not.

4 key findings

1. Australia's States and Territories have an important leadership role to play in tackling climate change and growing Australia's renewable energy industry.

2. South Australia is striding forward leading the Australian States on renewable energy.

3. Victoria and NSW have moved from leaders to laggards in Australia's renewable energy race.

4. Australia has substantial opportunities for renewable energy. A lack of clear federal policy has led to a drop in renewable energy investment.

This year, much of the focus on Australia’s climate change and renewable energy policy has been directed at the federal level – given the review of the national Renewable Energy Target (RE T), repeal of the Carbon Pricing Mechanism, and release of a new Energy Green Paper. However, while national action is vital, the roles and opportunities for Australian states and territories to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and expanding renewable energy should not be underestimated.

Internationally, the energy sector accounts for the largest proportion greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main drivers of climate change. Tackling climate change requires large scale changes in the electricity sector and a tripling of low-carbon energy by 2050.

Australia’s electricity is largely generated from coal. Our fleet is ageing and inefficient, which means that most of Australia’s coal stations are much more emissions intensive than other countries, including the USA and China. Within the decade, around half of Australia’s coal fuelled generation fleet will be over 40 years old. Australia will need to plan and install new electricity generation to replace ageing generators.

The Climate Council’s recent report Australia’s Electricity Sector: Ageing, Inefficient and Unprepared found that rapid deployment of renewable power, like wind and solar, is one of the most effective ways to reduce electricity sector emissions.

This report provides a snapshot of current targets and policies on emissions and renewable energy in each of Australia’s states and territories, and also measures their performance in terms of emissions, renewable energy capacity and generation.

Previous state targets have been removed after federal nationwide carbon pricing and energy efficiency measures were legislated. With these federal measures now abolished, industry, commerce and households in most states are left with no measures to reduce emissions or improve energy efficiency to lower costs. The efficacy of the Emissions Reduction Fund is yet to be established. Furthermore, uncertainty in the RE T has caused investment in renewable energy to drop by as much as 70 percent over the past year. Yet, South Australia and the ACT have set ambitious targets to cut emissions and increase renewable energy uptake. Positive policy settings in South Australia and the ACT will help these regions benefit from the global transition to cleaner energy, leaving the other states and territory lagging behind. Experience from overseas also illustrates how it is possible for state-based actions to stimulate highly effective policy measures.

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