With the prospect of another 3 years of climate inaction at the Federal level in Australia state government have to show leadership. The Victorian State Government is doing this with a 2020 emissions target that has generated jobs through solar and wind projects that will drive down prices and emissions. Some wins from the transition to low emissions has been the jobs created from the retooled Geelong Ford Factory now manufacturing wind turbines, Portland based Keppel Prince building wind turbine tower sections, Federation University with a new course for wind farm maintenance, Nectar Farms greenhouse facility which will be powered by cheap renewable energy and the construction of Berrybank, Mortlake South and Dundonnell wind farms and solar farms which are creating jobs and opportunities.
The next round of emission targets need to be legislated that will lay the groundwork for the next wave of projects.These targets are based on evidence from an expert panel. The expert panels membership was Dr Penny Whetton who had previously been a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Lorraine Stephenson and Greg Combet. The panel recently published their findings in the report ‘Interim Emissions Reduction Targets for Victoria (2021-2030)’ dubbed the Combet Report.
The Combet Report looks at opportunities to decarbonise Victoria in line with the Paris Agreement of limiting warming to “well below 2°C” and “pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”. It also looks at the devastating consequences of not pursuing these aims. Victoria is one of the most carbon intensive places on Earth and the only thing stopping us moving on the road to zero emissions has been politics. We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the public support all we need is to get on with the job. The Combet Report shows it can be done.
The expert panel found that early action on climate change is cheaper than waiting and there’s many opportunities in Victoria to keep the state in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. In addition it found that wholesale electricity prices will fall with the increase of renewable energy.
The report notes that:
Electricity generation also has the potential to provide a larger volume of lower-cost emissions reduction than other sectors of the economy.
Renewables providing 67.6% of total electricity generation in 2030...Wholesale electricity prices in 2030 of $79.4 compared with an average wholesale price of $90.5/MWh in 2018.
Renewables especially wind energy can play the biggest role in reducing emissions and wholesale prices will be cheaper in the future if we move away from fossil fuels.
Role of Wind
A key finding of Combet Report is the central role renewables especially wind energy in reaching zero emissions.
The largest volume of abatement opportunity lies in decarbonising electricity generation by moving to renewable energy sources, while land-based sequestration is an essential “sink”, or offset, to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Solar and wind are already the cheapest forms of new energy generation even when additional costs are included for energy storage.
The committed and proposed wind energy in the pipeline is the largest share of new electricity capacity with almost 10,000MW of projects in the pipeline waiting to be built. Wind energy is ready to replace dirty fossil fuels. A more ambitious target means more wind and solar, more action on climate change, more jobs and lower power prices.
Existing and potential new electricity generation capacity – Victoria (p. 71 Combet Report)
The Combet Report sets a new benchmark in what is possible, however, we find that the recommendations fall short. The Australian Wind Alliance is calling for Victoria to adopt targets based on 1.5°C emissions budget which the Combet Report shows is achievable for Victoria.
The report notes that an interim target of 43% below 2005 levels by 2025 and 67% for 2030 would be inline for 1.5°C carbon budget which is based on a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C. A 50% chance is too much of a gamble. A more ambitious target is required to meet the challenge of a fair emissions budget that will leave a safe climate.
Norway and Uruguay will be zero emissions by 2030 and Finland will be at zero emissions by 2035. This is the type of ambition that we need to stay within a 1.5°C carbon budget for Victoria. The upcoming UN 2019 Climate Summit's theme is ‘A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win’ we have little time to act and now is the time to be bold.
Having 1.5°C emissions target would make sure that a safe climate is more likely reached while the emissions reductions are more inline with the Paris Agreement which is “well below” 2°C and pursue efforts of limiting warming to 1.5°C. Making these targets would also be inline with the commitments that Victorian Government has taken the Paris Pledge for Action and signed the Climate Leadership Declaration for limiting warming to 1.5°C.