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Australia can be a renewable energy powerhouse, harnessing our tremendous resources of sun, wind, wave, earth and human ingenuity to replace our reliance on coal with 100% renewable energy within decades.
To make that transformation rapidly and efficiently, Australia needs a plan: we need to know where our biggest and best renewable energy resources are; we need streamlined consultation and approvals processes that bring communities together instead of dividing them; and we need jobs and infrastructure in the right place at the right time.
Right now, Australia’s development of renewable energy electricity is uncoordinated and directionless. The main mechanism used to drive renewable electricity generation - the Renewable Energy Target - creates an incentive for investment in renewable electricity but does not facilitate the planning of the country’s renewable electricity development. As a result there is a high risk that ad hoc decisions will lead to inefficient outcomes. For example, if an electricity transmission line to a new wind farm is installed before consultation identifies future likely development in the area, either the transmission line will have to be replicated (at great expense) or future development potential will be curtailed.
With the right planning now, supported by the Greens policies to drive investment in renewable energy, including a more ambitious renewable energy target and a ‘gross’ national feed-in tariff, we can avoid these mistakes and drive an inspiring transformation.
The Greens’ Safe Climate (Renewable Energy Infrastructure) Bill is a vital step in planning the transition to 100% renewable energy in Australia, giving Infrastructure Australia several new planning tasks that will be essential in making that transition as rapidly and efficiently as possible.
Under this plan, Infrastructure Australia would be tasked with:
- mapping the renewable energy resource areas of Australia;
- bringing all levels of government, local communities and renewable energy developers together in consultation; and
- creating renewable energy development zones based on the mapped areas, with streamlined approval processes and funding connection of the zones to the electricity grid.
Recognising that Infrastructure Australia is not receiving high quality infrastructure proposals from either state governments or the private sector, the bill establishes an independent expert advisory committee to advise Infrastructure Australia. This committee will provide advice on:
(a) the competitiveness and reliability of existing and emerging renewable energy technologies;
(b) the synergies between different technology types with respect to the reliability of renewable energy generation;
(c) the potential of electricity demand management, ‘smart-grid’ technology and emerging energy storage options to enhance the reliability of renewable energy electricity generation; and
(d) the need and potential to expand and upgrade transmission and distribution grid infrastructure.The Bill also requires the expert committee to complete a scoping study on the infrastructure investment required to achieve a 100% renewable energy target by 2030, 2040 and 2050.
After the committee has prepared this initial assessment, the Minister must select two of those target dates to be the subject of a detailed plan, to be completed by the expert committee. This plan must set out how the selected targets could be achieved, including mapping of:
(i) potential locations and concentrations of renewable energy generators, including wind, solar thermal, biomass, geothermal and wave power;
(ii) where and how the existing electricity grid (including high voltage DC lines) should be extended; and
(iii) any other matters the committee considers relevant.
Infrastructure Australia would then be required to take account of the detailed plan in the performance of its normal infrastructure funding function.