The Renewable Energy Revolution – Real Climate Action in the Sunshine State

Download  The Renewable Energy Revolution – Real Climate Action in the Sunshine State

Queensland needs a very different energy fuel mix to the current one. This is urgently needed to address the global warming challenge facing the world community, as well as other emissions and costs from our fossil fuel use (Rockstrom et al, 2009). This is even more necessary given the failure of Federal Government policy in recent years to address global warming.

This submission aims to assist policy development for a rapid transition to renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE), whilst establishing an alternative economic base to coal and gas mining. As Beyond Zero Emissions’ comprehensive technical reports demonstrate, Australia has the opportunity to be a global clean energy super power (BZE, 2016).   The focus of this submission is on electricity generation, since this is the largest contributor to all emissions from fossil fuels. However, other sectors such as transport, mining and agriculture need to be carefully considered in order to transition all sectors to renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Hence this submission to the Queensland Renewable Energy Expert Panel Issues Paper is written in this larger context, as a 50 percent renewable energy target is only part of what is required to transition our energy use away from fossil fuels.

With regard to achieving the State Government’s goal of a 50 percent of electricity generation from RE by 2030, the following key policies recommended in this submission are:

1. A renewable energy portfolio approach should be taken to support a mix of RE generating technologies, to provide a reliable, resilient and cost effective solution to a longer term goal of 100 percent RE generation across Australia. One such possible mix of RE generators is given in this submission. This approach is necessary due to:

  •  The inability of the market to solve complex societal problems such as global warming. Market failure in the energy sector is discussed in detail below.
  • The urgency of the need to address global warming and preferably keep global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • The need to diversify the energy mix to increase reliability and resilience to extreme disruptive events such as weather extremes or terrorism, whilst minimising energy storage losses and costs. This also assists with capturing synergies between variable RE sources where they exist.
  • The need to assist less cost effective technologies such as solar thermal electric (STE) (also called concentrating solar power systems or CSP) with thermal storage to be scaled up and costs reduced. This is because such systems can provide high capacity factors and dispatchable power.

2.  The RE portfolio should be underpinned with modelling to identify the optimum mix of RE generators and energy storage across the Queensland electricity network, as undertaken by groups such as University of New South Wales (Elliston, 2013 & 2014) and Beyond Zero Emissions (Wright & Hearps, 2010).

3.  Implement reverse auctions within the RE portfolio sectors to provide competition and reduce costs within sectors.

4.  Provide a feed-in tariff (FIT) rate for small roof-top photovoltaic (PV) systems (maximum of 30kVA inverter rating), on homes and small business, equivalent to the day time retail electricity rate (approximately 20 to 25 cents/kilowatt-hour). Such a one for one FIT rate provides clarity to PV system owners and simplifies customer metering and billing, and more fully reflects the true value of solar PV (Maine Public Utilities Commission, 2015).

5.  Provide incentives for energy storage, both large and small scale, that are structured to reduce the incentive level progressively over say 10 years. This provides planning certainty to industry and helps reduce storage installation costs rapidly as industry learns the requirements of best practice.

6.  Introduce smart gross metering on all homes and businesses to facilitate the expansion of the smart, distributed grid to ensure that both energy generation from embedded generators and energy consumption can be fully metered.

7.  Develop a suite of complementary policy measures to implement energy efficiency, in conjunction with the National Energy Productivity Plan.

8.  Upgrade current industry training to incentivise a best practice approach rather than just meeting minimum standards. Even these are not met in far too many cases at present. This is essential to ensuring safety and long life and good performance from energy systems. This should be supported with ongoing random system inspections to ensure compliance with codes and standards.

Globally, an energy transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency is already happening in many countries. Queenslanders strongly support these technologies and Government policy should reflect the people’s wishes. Whilst recent State Government commitments to renewable energy are to be applauded, Queensland lags behind most other States in the uptake of renewable energy (CEC, 2014:9), particularly large scale systems, and energy efficiency.

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