Labor should focus on states to help beat 50 pct renewables target

Labor should focus on states to help beat 50 pct renewables target

An incoming federal Labor government has been urged to focus proposed funding measures on state-based scheme to maximise its leverage and help the country meet, and surpass, the stated 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.

Labor – favoured by polls to win the election due in May – has committed to a 50 per cent renewables target for electricity by 2030, and while this is decried as “economy wrecking” by the Coalition and the big business lobby (BCA), many in the industry think it is not ambitious enough, and will reflect a significant slowing of deployment over the next decade.

The Labor policy has focused on a series of reverse auctions, managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the creation of new funds for network upgrades to manage renewable integration.

Simon Corbell, the former minister who was the architect of the ACT government’s 100 per cent renewable target, which it will meet on time by 2020, says Labor should consider throwing its support to backing state-based reverse auctions, rather than setting up its own system.

By aligning its finance with the state based scheme, a relatively small amount of finance – say $1 billion – could be leveraged to support an additional 10GW of new wind and solar and storage capacity.

“The CEFC could sign off on the design and the criteria that should be met by the states,” Corbell told the Smart Energy Conference in Sydney. “They could focus on achieving additionality and new generation being built. The focus should be on economic development and ensuring that regional communities benefit.”

Other measures could include ensuring that new infrastructure projects, including new rail lines, sign long term power purchase agreements to source all their electricity needs from renewables, and Corbell also recommended an “energy transition co-ordinator general” to ensure the grid and other infrastructure was in place to ensure the transition was smooth.

“We have got them (co-ordinator generals) for public transport, for motorways and for other things – let’s apply the same principle to renewable energy development,” Corbell said.

Corbell said it was clear that there was enough projects in the pipeline, and the country could easily exceed the 50 per cent target by 2030.”

“We need to act with increased haste and urgency and the industry is ready to make this transition to clean energy future. We can and must accelerate this transition.”

Former Liberal Party leader John Hewson lamented the lack of coherent policy, and the failure of  big business to embrace the opportunities in the clean energy transition.

Oliver Yates, the former CEFC head now challenging treasurer and former energy minister Josh Frydenberg in the seat of Kooyong, said Australia could ride on the back of wind, solar and renewables to grow its economy.

“The government still has no plan to address it,” Yates said, noting that the National Energy Guarantee proposed by Frydenberg, but dropped when the Coalition’s right faction opposed it, was “a carefully crafted policy to do nothing.”

But he said policy – at least like those proposed by Labor – was now “going back to science”, and the Climate Change Authority’s report – made before it was de-funded by the current government – made it clear that an emissions reduction target of 40-60 per cent was needed.

“We are off the path …. and emissions are rising,” Yates said. “The only way to stop the carbon wars is to vote out this government.”