Lowest-cost solar and wind ready to ‘turbo-charge’ Australia’s energy transition - CEC

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Image: Interest in the Australian utility-scale solar market remains high. Image. Kingfisher/Lyon Group.

Solar and wind have won the race to become the cheapest forms of low-carbon energy and should therefore form the basis of efforts to “turbo-charge” Australia’s energy transition, a government consultation has heard.

Australia’s Clean Energy Council (CEC), which represents the country’s green energy industry, said the clear cost of advantages of solar and wind, and the maturity of the industries that have built up around them, made them firm favourites to underpin accelerated decarbonisation of the country’s economy.

The CEC was responding to a consultation that closed yesterday on the Australian government’s ‘Technology Investment Roadmap Discussion Paper’ published in May. The paper and the stakeholder responses it elicits are intended to inform Australia’s first ‘Low Emissions Technology Statement’ later in 2020, which will guide the government’s thinking on which technologies to back to reduce emissions.

The CEC’s response said the extent to which the levelised costs of solar and wind power have fallen in the past 10 years – 90% and 67% respectively, according to figures cited by the organisation – warranted their prioritisation for accelerating the energy transition.

But in order to maximise the ability of solar and wind to underpin carbon reduction efforts, CEC said enabling technologies such as energy storage would also need to be prioritised in the roadmap, as well as efforts to strengthen and modernise the grid network.

Conversely, technologies that extend the life of higher-cost coal- and gas-fired generation should not be included within the final shortlist because they will disincentivise new investment in cleaner, lower-cost technologies, the CEC said.

Australia’s government, led by pro-coal Prime Minister Scott Morrison, had previously faced criticism for not replacing the national renewable energy target, which was met last year but has not yet been extended.

The CEC backed the introduction of a “strong” emissions reduction target for the electricity sector, coupled with supporting policy and market reforms, to provide a clear goal for the industry. “The government’s existing emissions reduction target lacks ambition and is doing little if anything to incentivise technology deployment,” the CEC said.

Concluding, the CEC consultation response highlighted an earlier report it had published, setting out the contributions Australia’s clean energy industry could make to the country’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CEC said that with the right policy framework, the renewable energy industry could inject up to AU$50 billion of private sector investment into the economy, freeing up scarce taxpayer funding for other essential services.

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