Renewable electricity policy for Australia

by Mark Diesendorf

Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in the world.If Australia is to stay within its share of the remaining, diminishing, global carbonbudget for stabilising Earth’s temperature increase at 2°C or less, a necessary (but notsufficient) requirement is to transition its electricity system rapidly to 100%renewables by 2030 or soon afterwards.

A future ecologically sustainable energysystem will be mostly electrical, with most heat and transport being provided byelectricity instead of liquid and gaseous fossil fuels. Although a carbon price is rejectedby both major political parties at present, several simple and affordable policies, to beimplemented by a future federal government and existing state governments, couldassist the market to accelerate the renewable electricity transition.

These policiesinclude incentives for dispatchable renewables and other forms of storage, funding fora few key transmission links and an industry-funded incentive for the retirement of themost polluting coal-fired power stations.

When the point is reached where variablerenewables begin to contribute the majority of electricity generation in Australia,additional policies will be needed to overcome more complex barriers involvingelectricity market design, education and training of professionals and tradespeople,and industry policy.

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