The ghost of renewable policy past
Following the end of an interesting year for the solar industry as a whole, this article sets a broader view to see how, as a nation, we have progressed over the last few years in the renewables sector.
It’s 2011, and the carbon tax was recently passed by the Gillard government. This was a ground-breaking move on the fight against climate change, earning widespread praise in the global community, even from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore.
Two years later, the carbon tax was repealed by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott in his government’s third attempt at dismantling the initiative. In its place the Direct Action policy was introduced, aptly named the “climate sceptic” approach by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Since then, the Abbott government committed to a no holds barred attack on the renewable energy sector. Alongside rhetoric that coal is “…good for humanity…”, Abbott denounced windfarms as “visually awful”, passed a bill to cut Australia’s Renewable Energy Target [RET] (being the first developed country to do so) and attempted to abolish key renewable energy research and financing organizations like ARENA and the CEFC.
Enter, Malcolm Turnbull.
As the fifth Australian Prime Minister in as many years, Malcolm Turnbull inherited many things from his predecessors, including a significantly wanting renewables sector. In April 2015, investment in the renewable sector dropped almost 90% from the previous year, and although unhappily married to Direct Action, Malcolm Turnbull simply had to do one thing in order to invigorate the renewable energy sector; that was to simply not be Tony Abbott.
Despite no significant policy change to date, the Turnbull government has still engendered a renewed sense of confidence in the renewable energy sector prompting recent national and international large-scale investment into renewable technologies.
However, these efforts still fall short of Australia’s share of renewable energy uptake when compared on a global scale. Fortunately, where the Federal government has been missing in action, the State governments have stepped in to continue the fight against climate change.
Prompted by the outcome of the COP21, held in December 2015, States and Territories have pushed their individual Renewable Energy Targets to new highs, lighting the way for real and significant gains in renewable energy uptake across Australia.
South Australia, always on the front foot when it comes to renewables, has set a zero net emissions target for 2050 while leading the residential rooftop movement with a 25% penetration. Queensland is a close second in this respect, with 24% of households already having installed rooftop solar, and State government has also renewed promises to further boost the State’s RET. The ACT has a 90% renewable energy target by 2020, and Tasmania looks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60% below 1990 levels by 31 December 2050.
With the solar revolution truly underway, the future looks brighter for the Australian renewable industry.