Four Steps to 100% Renewable Electricity

Simple, affordable policies could and should be adopted by federal and state governments to facilitate Australia’s rapid transition to a reliable renewable electricity system while simultaneously reducing electricity prices. This is shown by a new Australia Institute report authored by UNSW Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf.

“The community wants to see the country move towards fully renewable energy generation and climate science shows us that the transition must be rapid.”

“There are no major technical or economic barriers to the transition, but neither major political party is implementing the will of the majority of Australians at the Federal level and two State governments still have to take action.”

In the paper, Professor Diesendorf outlines the following policies as the priority short-term actions the Federal and State governments can take to transition the country to renewable electricity:

  • provide specific additional tranches of $4 billion over four years to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and $2 billion over four years to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to stimulate more support for dispatchable, flexible, renewable electricity and other forms of storage;
  • expedite construction of key transmission links between Qld and NSW, SA and NSW, within north-western and western Vic, and within northern NSW to better integrate renewable electricity into the grid;
  • bring forward simple rule changes in the National Electricity Market to reward demand response and flexible, fast-response, dispatchable power and to reduce ‘gaming’ of the market by gas-fired generators;
  • NSW and WA should follow the lead of the ACT, Vic and Qld by introducing renewable electricity targets and reverse auctions for large-scale renewable energy power stations.

“Dispatchable, flexible, fast-response, renewable power stations include pumped hydro, batteries charged with excess renewable electricity, concentrated solar thermal with thermal storage, and gas turbines using renewable fuels”, Professor Diesendorf says. “They are needed to supplement and ‘firm up’ bulk electricity from wind and solar farms. Inflexible, slow-response, unreliable coal-fired power stations cannot do the job”.

“Implementing these proposed policies will take Australia most of the way towards 100% renewable electricity. Furthermore, as the penetration of renewable electricity increases, the wholesale price of electricity will decline as a result of the low operating cost of wind and solar farms. This is already beginning to happen,” Professor Diesendorf added.

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