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ACT – a renewable energy trailblazer and among global leaders

canberra, ACT

The Australian Capital Territory will likely meet its 100 per cent renewable electricity target ahead of its own deadline of 1 January, 2020, according to a new report released by the Australia Institute.

Either way, the ACT is set to become the first major jurisdiction outside of Europe to move from a fossil fuel-based energy supply to 100 per cent renewable electricity. That’s thanks in part to an energy offtake agreement it signed with a wind farm that starts on 1 October, and plans for battery storage, the report said.

The ACT’s progress showed what governments could achieve if they had strong climate and energy policies, climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, Richie Merzian said. 

“The ACT is a renewable energy trailblazer,” said Mr Merzian. “This shows that states and territories are leading the way on climate action while national governments often lag behind.”

In May, the ACT joined other cities, states and territories around the world in declaring a state of climate emergency, acknowledging the need for urgent action across all levels of government.

It followed that up with the announcement earlier this month that it would hold a reverse auction where sellers will compete to obtain business from the ACT – for wind and solar power, plus battery storage, as part of plans to “future proof” its 100 per cent renewables target.

A few days later, the government announced its climate strategy for 2019-25, which identified new measures to further reduce emissions and increase the territory’s resilience to unavoidable climate change impacts.

The strategy sets a path towards achieving a target of reducing emissions by 50 to 60 per cent (from 1990 levels) by 2025, and outlined initial steps towards achieving its goal of net zero emissions by 2045.

The ACT’s minister for climate change and sustainability, and leader of the ACT Greens, Shane Rattenbury, said the targets were ambitious and would require the active participation of the whole community.

Dangerous tipping point

“Government is committed to collaborating with the community and businesses to find new ways of working together to respond to climate change,” he said.

“Globally, if we continue to release greenhouse gases at current rates, our climate will reach a dangerous tipping point in coming decades, which will result in irreversible changes to the Earth’s systems.”

The strategy has a strong focus on reducing emissions from transport and gas, the two largest sources of emissions, from 2020 once emissions from electricity are eliminated. However, emission reductions in these sectors are less influenced by government.

No more gas mandates for new suburbs

In a bid to future-proof the ACT’s reliance on 100 per cent renewable energy, a large battery will be built in the territory. It will help manage fluctuations in grid voltage and frequency, remove the need to upgrade network infrastructure, store excess electricity from renewable electricity sources, and provide power to help avoid blackouts during periods of high demand.

To encourage the community to shift from gas to electricity, the ACT will remove the mandated requirement for gas connection in new suburbs, support gas to electric appliance upgrades and move to all-electric new builds, among other initiatives.

Sustainable ACT at a glance:

  • Removal of mandate for gas connection in new suburbs
  • support gas to electric appliance upgrades and move to all-electric new builds
  • 30 per cent urban tree canopy target
  • policies to help households make their homes more efficient
  • minimum energy standards for rental properties
  • a large battery to be built

The 2019-25 strategy has more than 100 pages of policy changes across 53 different areas of government, including a 30 per cent urban tree canopy target, policies to help households make their homes more efficient, and minimum energy standards for rental properties.

In a bid to future-proof the ACT’s reliance on 100 per cent renewable energy, a large battery will be built in the territory. It will help manage fluctuations in grid voltage and frequency, remove the need to upgrade network infrastructure, store excess electricity from renewable electricity sources, and provide power to help avoid blackouts during periods of high demand.

According to the Australia Institute, around the world, only seven other jurisdictions with populations over 100,000 have moved to 100 per cent renewable electricity, all of them in Europe.

“While there are some jurisdictions who have achieved 100 per cent renewable energy based on historic investment in hydroelectricity, the ACT will join a select few to have made the transition from a fossil fuel-dominated energy system,” it said.

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