The Greens have continued their national leadership on energy policy by announcing a Clean Energy Roadmap to get Australia to 100 percent renewables. The intervention is an attempt to spark a debate about energy policy in the lead up to the looming federal election.
In an opinion article published by RenewEconomy, Greens leader Senator Christine Milne makes the case for a national roadmap. Milne cites studies by the Australian Energy Market Operator and University of New South Wales which find it economically and feasible for the national grid to be powered entirely by renewable energy. Senator Milne makes her case:
“The cheapest way to decarbonise the electricity sector is to plan the transition early and build the right energy infrastructure in the right place at the right time. To avoid wasting time and money on investments that don’t adequately address climate change, we need a roadmap.”
To drive the transition to 100 percent renewable energy the Greens’ Clean Energy Roadmap proposes three policy changes:
- Increase the national Renewable Energy Target to 90 percent by 2030. Senator Milne suggests an increased RET “will give investors the certainty and stability they need to plan.”
- Ramp up funding of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), Australia’s ‘green bank’. According to Senator Milne, a tripling of the CEFC’s funds to $30b can “drive more change and private investment.” Incremental investment of $3 billion per year for ten years could deliver the ambitious increase.
- Reform national electricity transmission planning to ensure Australia harnesses its rich renewable energy resources.
Greens leadership on the renewable energy front is welcome, yet it’s not surprising. Where the question marks remain, however, is over the renewable energy policies the Rudd-led Labor and Abbott-led Coalition will take to the Australian people on election day.
Labor and the Coalition support the Renewable Energy Target as both have a stake in its development. The Howard government introduced the RET in the early 2000s and the Rudd government ramped it up in 2009.
The Labor party backs the RET in its current form, yet it failed to legislate the changes recommended by the Climate Change Authority. The remained silent on it’s stance on additional targets out to 2050.
The Coalition is has a more devious position. Shadow ministers Greg Hunt (Climate Change) and Ian Macfarlane (Energy) express public support for the RET, they have refused to commit to the 41,000 GWh target.
One thing that is well known is Australia’s strong support for renewables.
Polling by Essential Research shows 73 percent of Australians support the Renewable Energy Target. A substantial 40 percent of which think the Renewable Energy Target is not high enough.
Wind energy remains popular with Australians despite an aggressive anti-wind energy scare campaign. A massive 76 percent support building more wind farms.
Renewable energy is even highly popular among Coalition votes. The Abbott-led Coalition might not be able to make up its mind, but its voters have. Some 64 percent of Liberal/National party voters believe the RET is either ‘not high enough’ or ‘about right,’ and 71 percent support more wind energy.
The election has tightened since Kevin Rudd return as Prime Minister. It’ll be interesting to see how Labor and Coalition policy adapts to take advantage of strong public support for renewable energy.