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Garnaut’s plan to make WA a global clean energy superpower

Western Australia can become a global leader in clean energy by adopting a state-based emissions intensity scheme, according to leading energy and climate economist Professor Ross Garnaut.

Professor Garnaut outlined his plan for WA at a public lecture at Murdoch University last week, saying that as the rest of Australia “wallows in incoherent energy and emissions policy”, WA can capture this market advantage by transitioning to high levels of renewable energy, meanwhile reducing the price of power.

The emissions intensity scheme would require energy producers to set an emissions intensity benchmark, limiting how much carbon dioxide can be emitted per unit of electricity.

WA Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen agreed that WA needed to “go it alone”,

“The good news is that this can deliver a strong advantage for WA by attracting new jobs and investment to our state.”

The electricity sector makes up about 30 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and Australia’s electricity emissions intensity is high compared to other states – six per cent higher than China and 60 per cent higher than the US, according to the Climate Council.

This is because we heavily rely on coal and gas-fired power, despite Australia being a “natural home for energy intensive industry investment in a carbon-constrained world,” Professor Garnaut said.

A “technology neutral” scheme could increase the cost of electricity production from high-emitting sources like coal and gas, while decreasing the cost of less polluting sources like renewables,

encourage a market to shift from high-emission to low-emission energy.

Mr Verstegen said if adopted the policy could “make our state a leader in the global clean energy economy of the future”, and urged the government to take it up.

“We encourage energy minister Ben Wyatt to take these recommendations from one of Australia’s leading economists seriously,” Mr Verstegen said.

“An emissions intensity scheme linked to an overall carbon pollution reduction goal for WA should be investigated as a matter of urgency.”

WA is not the only state to have proposed such a scheme.

In 2016, South Australia premier Jay Weatherill warned that SA would create their own emissions intensity scheme after federal energy minister John Frydenberg ruled it out of the federal government’s climate change policy.

The federal government have since announced a National Energy Guarantee, that many say will work to prolong the life of fossil fuels in the grid.

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