Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in the world. If Australia is to stay within its share of the remaining, diminishing, global carbon budget for stabilising Earth’s temperature increase at 2°C or less, a necessary (but not sufficient) requirement is to transition its electricity system rapidly to 100% renewables by 2030 or soon afterwards.
A future ecologically sustainable energy system will be mostly electrical, with most heat and transport being provided by electricity instead of liquid and gaseous fossil fuels. Although a carbon price is rejected by both major political parties at present, several simple and affordable policies, to be implemented by a future federal government and existing state governments, could assist the market to accelerate the renewable electricity transition.
These policies include incentives for dispatchable renewables and other forms of storage, funding for a few key transmission links and an industry-funded incentive for the retirement of the most polluting coal-fired power stations. When the point is reached where variable renewables begin to contribute the majority of electricity generation in Australia, additional policies will be needed to overcome more complex barriers involving electricity market design, education and training of professionals and tradespeople, and industry policy.