After being criticised by Canberra, South Australia is leading the race, with ACT and Tasmania close behind, says Climate Council
August 30, 2017 — Australian states and territories are powering ahead, developing policies that will meet the federal government’s internationally agreed greenhouse gas emission targets, with South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania leading the race.
Despite being chastised by the federal government for unilateral action, South Australia is leading the race, with the ACT and Tasmania not far behind, according to a report by the Climate Council.
Compared on a series of measures including penetration of renewable energy, the percentage of households with solar, as well as emissions and renewable energy targets, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales are at the back of the pack, with Victoria and Queensland in the middle.
Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been rising ever since the Coalition government repealed the carbon tax in 2014. The federal government’s own projections show their policies will cause emissions to continue to rise for decades to come.
But in the midst of the ongoing federal policy vacuum, every state and territory besides Western Australia has “gone it alone” and developed strong renewable energy and emissions reduction policies.
South Australia leads the country with 47% of its electricity sourced from renewable sources, followed by the ACT at 22%. Tasmania sourced 92% of its electricity from renewable sources, but that was dominated by large-scale hydro electricity.
The Northern Territory sourced just 2% of its electricity from renewable sources, sitting behind Western Australia and Queensland at 7%. Victoria sourced 12% from renewables while NSW sat at 17%.
Queensland led the country when it comes to solar households, with 32% of homes having solar panels. That just pipped South Australia, which had 31%.
While both Western Australia and the Northern Territory scored poorly on most measures, there appeared to be grassroots momentum there for solar rooftops, with the biggest increases in solar penetration over the past year happening in those states. Western Australia jumped almost three percentage points to more than 25% penetration, and the Northern Territory jumped 2.7 percentage points to 11.4% – a figure that was still the lowest in the country.
The ACT and Tasmania had the strongest renewable energy targets, with the former aiming to implement a 100% target by 2020 and the latter by 2022. The ACT’s aggressive and bipartisan renewable energy policies delivered the lowest energy costs in the country for consumers.
Every state except Western Australia and the Northern Territory had targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Those policies, combined with a surge in grassroots activity and market-driven closure of coal power plants, look set to easily cut Australia’s emissions by more 28% below 2005 levels, as Australia committed to following the Paris Agreement in 2015. That was the conclusion of a report by Frontier Economics earlier in the year, which concluded: “The commonwealth government will receive credit for state renewable policies that contribute to meeting the 2030 emissions target, while admonishing them for any energy security issues that may result.
“Every state and territory, with the exception of Western Australia, is taking energy and climate policy into their own hands, with strong renewable energy targets or net zero emissions targets in place,” said Climate Council councillor and energy expert Andrew Stock.
“States and territories previously lagging (NT, NSW and WA), are now stepping up the pace, joining the enormous progress we’re seeing across the nation,” he said.
Climate Council member and former president of BP Australasia, Greg Bourne, said Australians are embracing solar energy in droves, with more than 5.6GW generated on the rooftops of 1.7 million homes.
“Australia is one of the sunniest countries in the world, so it’s no surprise we’ve already rolled out enough solar to power the lights at the MCG every day for 20,000 years,” he said.
States leading the way without federal coordination was described as a “a messy dog’s breakfast” by the Grattan Institute’s Tony Wood, who went on to say the unilateral state action was “understandable with federal climate change inaction”.