Role of Australia’s state governments ‘critical for solar development’

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Support from Australia’s state governments is critical to help the development of solar projects as national debate over renewables becomes increasingly “corrosive”, according to speakers at the Australian Clean Energy Summit 2015 today, attended by PV Tech.

Clean Energy Council (CEC) chief executive Kane Thornton said states were leading the way on clean energy issues ahead of the national government. State governments understand the full benefit offered by renewable energy, particularly the investment and jobs in rural parts of the country where opportunities are otherwise sparse.

Thornton said that large-scale solar and wind were the most cost-effective opportunities for Australia so there is a need to reform the energy market to foster greater competition, innovation and consumer engagement.

He added: “Politicians ignore clean energy at their peril.”

Thorton also highlighted particular states for their progress, describing the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government as a “beacon”, with South Australia leading the country on renewable energy deployment, while Queensland and Victoria are looking to regain their leadership in this area. New South Wales and Tasmania have also made “strong public commitments”.

ACT environment minister and attorney-general Simon Corbell, whose government brought in a reverse auction scheme to boost solar and wind farm deployment, said that state governments now have a more prominent role to play after the “corrosive” national clean energy debate over issues such as the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which was only recently agreed upon after 18 months of uncertainty for the industry.

He added: “Strong policies are critical to allow renewable energy to scale up sufficiently. The ACT has demonstrated what is feasible with our reverse auction process, and we believe there is a big role for the states to play in encouraging more renewable energy.” 

Corbell also said Australia’s renewables sector needs to go beyond the recent limitations imposed upon it as a sector in order to become less vulnerable to the damaging public and partisan debate. States now play a critical role in the absence of leadership nationally.

For example, this week Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) was told by prime minister Tony Abbott that it can no longer invest in rooftop solar and wind projects. A draft mandate was been passed to the CEFC for consultation that stop the so-called green bank from funding packages to reduce the cost of household renewable energy installations.

Back at the Summit, Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio, who recently lobbied the federal government to allow Victoria to set its own RET, said the lengthy debate over the national RET meant states needed to play a greater role.

Also this week, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said it would launch a 200MW large-scale solar auction after revealing its new funding plan of AU$80-100 million (US$59-74 million).

Additional reporting by David Owen

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