Renewable energy should be “an absolute priority for the next Federal Government”, the Clean Energy Council said in a statement released ahead of the May 21 election.

The council’s statement came in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) stark warning that rapid and deep emissions reductions are needed to secure a liveable future. The massive deployment of wind, solar and storage is the most efficient way of reducing emissions and containing temperature rises within 1.5°C.

In the leadup to the election, the council is advocating for Australia’s electricity grid to be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Achieving this would deliver emissions reductions of 44.5 per cent based on 2005 levels. “This isn’t an ambitious or difficult target; it’s the low-hanging fruit and should be an absolute priority for the next Federal Government”, said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton. “Canberra should be doing everything in its power to facilitate private investment in renewable energy.” 

Renewables now power 32.5 per cent of Australia’s electricity. This figure has almost doubled since 2017. But, the industry’s momentum is slowing, in part because of federal policy uncertainty.

The clock is ticking for the fossil fuel industry, says the council. The exit of ageing coal generators over the coming decade means that now is the time to accelerate clean energy investment. The incoming Federal Government must show leadership and unite industry, unions and communities to manage this inevitable transition. This is vital to ensure people and their communities do not get left behind. 

Climate change: Australia’s number one issue

Australia is an emissions behemoth. Yet, the country is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Australia is suffering extreme heat, wildfires, droughts and floods, and events are only expected to worsen. Rising temperatures are also threatening the country’s natural treasure, the Great Barrier Reef. As well as the environmental tragedy, this alone risks the estimated 60,000 tourism jobs that depend on the reef. For these reasons, officials have recently warned that climate change is the “greatest threat to the future and security” of Australia. 

Yet, Australia’s major parties continue to back the fossil fuels driving this climate breakdown. This is at complete odds with the science. It is also in stark contrast with the concerns of the electorate. In a survey of 97,159 respondents, Vote Compass data shows climate change is the number one most important issue for Australians. 

The latest Climate of the Nation benchmark report found concern about climate change is at an all-time high in Australia. The 2021 report, which tracks attitudes towards climate change, found that 75 per cent of Australians are concerned about climate change, and 82 per cent support the phase-out of coal-fired power stations.

The findings highlighted “just how isolated current Federal Government policy is from community sentiment”, says the Institute. Furthermore, the government’s continued inaction on climate means being accused of putting its citizens in danger

Increase clean energy investment

In recent years, Australia’s abundant clean energy resources have delivered an enormous economic boost to Australia. This is the result of unprecedented levels of investment in large-scale wind, solar and storage. There have also been record levels of installation of rooftop solar and household battery solutions in the country. 

“Renewable energy is here now and has been doing the lion’s share of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Australia”, said Thornton. “It is a proven technology with enormous potential to reduce carbon efficiently and cost-effectively long into the future.”

But, continued policy uncertainty, combined with challenges connecting renewables to the grid, has stunted new large-scale clean energy projects. What’s more, the level of financial commitments needed to power the transition has fallen by more than 17 per cent, from AUD $4.5 billion in 2020 to AUD $3.7 billion in 2021.

Clean Energy Council: Support renewables for a prosperous Australia

In February, the Clean Energy Council released a report with the roadmap for Australia to achieve 100 per cent clean energy by 2030. The report calls for strong government leadership to manage the clean energy transition and facilitate private investment. The policy recommendations are:

  1. Electrify Australia: Power the Australian economy and industry with wind, solar, hydro, bioenergy and battery storage
  2. Empower customers and communities to make the switch to clean energy
  3. Build a strong, smart, 21st century electricity network
  4. Maximise the creation of quality clean energy jobs and a local supply chain
  5. Provide greater support and certainty for coal communities and industry as the phase-out of coal generation accelerates
  6. Modernise Australia’s energy market and its governance for the clean energy transformation
  7. Turbo-charge clean energy innovation
  8. Decarbonise Australian industries using clean energy
  9. Put Australia on a path to becoming a global clean energy superpower that exports renewable energy to Asia and beyond

These policies would “create thousands of new jobs, empower consumers, bring economic activity to regional communities, lower power prices and create the smart infrastructure of the future that can cement Australia’s place as a global clean energy superpower”, states the report. “When you support pro-renewable energy policies, you are voting for a prosperous Australia”, says Thornton.