The Clean Energy Council says that today’s announcement by Origin Energy to bring forward the closure of its Eraring coal-fired power plant to 2025 highlights, once again, the need for a nationally co-ordinated approach to manage the retirement of fossil fuel generation as well as support necessary new clean energy generation.
“Yesterday, Rystad Energy data revealed an $830 billion, 400 GW pipeline of renewable energy projects in Australia. Investors are willing to develop the projects that put Australia on the pathway to a future powered with clean energy, but what’s missing is a strong federal policy to underpin that new investment as well as proactive support for workers and communities for a just transition,” said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton.
The earlier closure of Eraring also highlights the critical need for policy and regulatory reform to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy and storage, given its importance in maintaining the reliability and security of the power system as coal-fired generators retire. These ageing coal assets represent a key vulnerability in the power system, and it is critical that we bring forward the necessary investment in renewable generation and storage to replace them.
“This not only makes sense from a system perspective, but also stacks up financially as the network assets that were built for these retiring coal units can be repurposed to support big batteries,” says Thornton. “We are already seeing this occur at sites including Eraring, Torrens Island and Yallourn, which is a very encouraging development and demonstrates how low-carbon technology can keep the system stable.”
Ahead of the Federal Election, the Clean Energy Council is urging the next Federal Government to establish a new authority with at least $1 billion in funding to invest in transition initiatives in coal communities across Australia.
While some workers are facing anxiety around their ongoing livelihood, the clean energy industry is desperate for skilled workers – there's a genuine missed opportunity due to a lack of planning around the physical and social transition of our energy system.
"The clean energy sector is facing a growing labour shortage and deepening skills gap. With proper planning for communities and consideration of education and training needs, we could be offering pathways to help transition many coal workers into careers in clean energy,” says Thornton.
“This week, the New South Wales Government announced that it has received $100 billion worth of proposals for its Hunter-Central Coast renewable energy zone,” Thornton continues. “This illustrates that initiatives such as its NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap can resolve a number of the key barriers to investment, such as access to the necessary transmission capacity, investment certainty through long-term energy services agreements and addressing slow and costly planning processes.”
The clean energy transition can be transformative for Australia’s regional communities, not only providing low-cost, renewable energy to consumers, but also providing long-term employment pathways in the clean energy sector. In addition, it can create greater resilience for regional and farming communities through landholder payments, community benefit schemes and co-location with agricultural production.
“What we’re seeing unfold is precisely what the Australian Energy Market Operator anticipated in its draft 2022 Integrated System Plan: a rapid acceleration in coal-fired power station retirements. While the renewable energy industry is ready to deliver replacement supply, these accelerated coal retirements need to be coordinated to ensure our electricity system remains stable through this rapid transition and so that we maximise opportunities for local economies,” says Thornton.
For more information contact:
Clean Energy Council Media Manager
+61 409 470 683