Power Up: How’s the government’s energy report card shaping up?
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One of the big changes from the May 2022 change in Federal Government has been the rhetoric around climate change and renewable energy.
While the Morrison government had committed to achieving net zero by 2050, the much criticised plan made use of some rather suspect assumptions such as Australia already having slashed its emissions since 2005 and that nebulous technologies such as carbon capture and storage, and soil carbon would emerge to save us all.
This period was also marked by attempts to hijack the remit of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which provides government funding for renewable energy projects, to include a wider range of clean energy technologies.
Said clean energy technologies includes CCS, blue hydrogen and other projects which are controversial to say the least.
That some candidates for the Coalition were alleging that their boss’ net zero plan had “wiggle room” certainly didn’t help things and played a not inconsiderable role in Labor – and its climate policies – winning government.
So just what are the commitments from the Albanese Government since then?
The latest commitments under the Rewiring the Nation plan includes the provision of $1.5bn in concessional financing for projects in Victoria’s Renewable Energy Zones, and a commitment to coordinate Victorian and Commonwealth regulatory processes to support rapid development of the state’s offshore wind industry.
This same package includes a concessional loan of $750 million from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for the Victoria-New South Wales Interconnector (VNI West) KerangLink and for Victoria to contribute equally with the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments for 20% of project equity to deliver the Marinus Link – two undersea transmission cables that will connect the two states.
The remaining 80% will come from a concessional loan provided by the CEFC.
Rewiring the Nation will also provide $1bn of low-cost debt for Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation project and debt to increase the capacity of the electricity network in the state by linking Cressy, Burnie, Sheffield, Staverton and Hampshire.
And these are just the first projects in the $20bn Rewiring the Nation plan, which is itself just the largest part of the Government’s grand plan.
Having a supportive Commonwealth Government appears to have provided State Governments with the impetus to craft their own renewable energy moves.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has committed to achieving 65% emissions reduction – partly due to a move to 95% renewables – by 2035, if the State Labor Government is re-elected.
This state-led initiative is still short on details, no surprise given that it is still very much an election promise – take from that what you will.
Meanwhile, Queensland unveiled plans to become a renewable hydrogen superpower with development of a 50,000kg per annum facility near Chinchilla.
For an opening salvo, the Albanese Government’s moves are certainly a step in the right direction.
However, as some pundits have pointed out, a lot more needs to be done to ensure that Australia has enough energy to fuel homes and businesses once the coal-fired plants are shut, which is looking to be mostly around 2035.
A lot can happen in 13 years but not without quick action and that’s really what we need to see and soon.