Australia has a competitive advantage in renewable energy. Our solar, wind, bioenergy, hydro, ocean and geothermal resources are among the best in the world. And we have world-leading renewable energy research and development, strongly supported by the efforts of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Clean Energy Finance Corporation, CSIRO and our universities.
Despite Australia’s unique advantages, in recent years we have slipped behind the rest of the world in renewable energy investment and deployment. This is a missed opportunity that must be addressed.
Renewable energy offers huge economic and environmental opportunities. Investment in renewable energy drives job creation across a range of fields, including construction, engineering, research and business development.
Australia currently has one of the oldest and dirtiest electricity generation sectors in the world. To meet Australia’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement, significant reductions in carbon emissions will be essential. Over the longer term, a zero-emissions electricity sector will be required before 2050.
The age of many of our existing power plants means that, irrespective of our global carbon commitment, our energy sector will require modernisation. The extraordinary cost reductions achieved by renewable energy in recent years means the lowest cost solution available today and into the future is renewable energy.
The increasing cost and scarcity of gas means its role in electricity generation is shrinking, while the cost of nuclear is skyrocketing around the world. Renewable energy, combined with battery storage, will define the future.
Rapid technological innovation has resulted in a significant reduction in the cost of renewable energy generation over the last decade. And its economic and environmental benefits will continue to increase over time, as further technological advances in battery and storage technology put downward pressure on power prices and improve both the reliability and security of our electricity supply.
The reliability of renewable energy is one of the main advantages cited internationally for new investment. This has been highlighted by the International Energy Agency, which has stated: "Renewables also, usually, increase the diversity of electricity sources, and through local generation, contribute to the flexibility of the system and its resistance to central shocks".
However, the immense benefits of renewable energy cannot be fully secured without strong, long-term national policy. While many advanced economies are making substantial investments in renewable energy, Australia’s investment environment has suffered from significant uncertainty due to a lack of bipartisan agreement on climate change and energy policies.
The clean energy industry has developed a detailed blueprint for the long-term policy necessary to drive the transition of our energy system and unlock Australia’s huge renewable energy potential.
The Clean Energy Council’s Power Shift blueprint outlines the following key priority areas:
- Ensure long-term and transparent carbon reduction targets for the energy sector
- Set strong and long-term renewable energy targets
- Innovation that delivers the next generation of clean energy solutions
- Smart regulation and energy market reform for a 21st century energy system
- Cement public support through the development of product standards and best practice approaches to consumer and public engagement
In order to reduce investment uncertainty, meet emission reduction targets and realistically address the impact of Australia’s ageing coal-fired power fleet, a bipartisan approach to energy policy needs to be reached as soon as possible.
This approach should include a transition plan for workers and communities surrounding coal-fired power stations, an approach to modernise our electricity system and its regulatory framework, and an increased and long-term target for renewable energy to support new investment.
In light of the economic, energy and environmental imperatives we face, we call on both major parties to work towards a comprehensive national policy plan that supports new renewable energy investment over the long term as a matter of urgency.