Five Ways the Australian Government Can Accelerate Clean Energy and Transport - Solar Citizens

Five Ways the Australian Government Can Accelerate Clean Energy and Transport

Australia is lucky: we have incredible renewable energy resources that can be turned into abundant, cheap energy, as well as deposits of key minerals needed to make technology like battery storage and solar panels. By harnessing our clean energy potential we can drive down household power bills, reinvigorate our transport system to be fully electric and run our cars, buses and trains on affordable renewable energy, and establish new manufacturing industries to provide the world with clean technology. 

Our renewable energy advantage is our opportunity to slash the cost of living while creating strong, future-proof regional economies. But to make the most of these opportunities, we urgently need bold national policies to accelerate the rollout of solar, wind and storage, and electric transport. Solar Citizens is calling on the Federal Government to adopt and immediately implement the following five policies. 

1. By the start of 2024, implement strong Fuel Efficiency Standards in line with our global trading partners to increase the supply of affordable electric vehicles in Australia and reduce road-based transport emissions.

Fuel Efficiency Standards are the key policy to unlocking a reliable supply of affordable electric vehicles (EVs) and reducing passenger vehicle fleet emissions over time. Australia is one of just four wealthy countries without Fuel Efficiency Standards, which puts us at the back of the international queue for EVs and means that manufacturers can dump their fuel intensive and polluting vehicles in Australia.

Road-based transport make up the bulk of Australia’s transport emissions, which are rising faster than any other sector. A Fuel Efficiency Standard is the key to slowing the rising emissions and securing a supply of affordable EVs for Australia – but only if the Standard is strong enough.

The Federal Government should implement a Standard that comes into place no later than the 1st of January, 2024. The starting limit should be 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre and reach 0 grams (100% new sales are EVs) as soon as possible, but no later than 2035 in order to meet our Paris Commitments and limit global warming to 1.5°C.

The standard should be enforced by a trusted government agency such as the Climate Change Authority and should use the World Light Vehicle Harmonised Testing Procedure (WLTP) as a measurement system. Penalties should be included for manufacturers that are significant enough to outweigh the option of exceeding the limit.

The Standard should be regularly reviewed, at least every two years and enshrined in legislation so future governments cannot remove it without it being passed through the parliament. Additionally, no loopholes including “super credits” or “off-cycle credits” should be considered for manufacturers. Strong emissions limits mean that we should not need super credits, as has been the case in New Zealand.

2. Act now to tackle the energy crisis and rising cost of living by introducing a Renewable Energy Storage Target (REST) to drive the rapid rollout of both small and large-scale battery storage.

A significant amount of storage is required to come online by 2030 to meet the Australian Government’s 82% renewable energy target – and even more firming generation is needed to match the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Hydrogen Superpower scenario that’s aligned with the Paris Commitment to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Storage, such as batteries and pumped hydro plants, play a key role in maintaining grid reliability and reducing electricity bills by soaking up surplus cheap renewable energy and making it available during periods of high demand.

To bring online more storage the Australian Government should implement a Renewable Energy Storage Target for both large and small-scale storage that could be actioned via:

  1. The Australian and state governments implementing a series of auctions to support suitable large-scale projects.
  2. The Australian Government expanding the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) to provide additional financial incentive for the installation of battery storage alongside solar. The existing SRES regulation could simply be altered to provide more small-scale technology certificates for both new installs and upgrades that are combined with storage. 

It’s essential that a REST policy features benefits for both small and large-scale storage. As solar uptake continues to grow, more distributed storage is needed to minimise stress on the distribution network and ensure the grid can support significant continued solar growth. 

It’s a welcome first step that the Australian Government has committed to rolling out 400 community batteries with a $224 million fund. This scheme should be urgently rolled out to help drive down electricity costs for consumers.

3. Provide targeted financial support, including interest-free loans, for the rollout of household clean technology, such as solar and storage, energy efficiency upgrades and electric appliances to replace gas. 

Providing support for Australians to electrify their households and power them with rooftop solar and battery storage is a key solution for helping consumers manage high electricity and gas prices. 

In addition to solar, other clean technologies that are smart hip-pocket investment for consumers include household battery storage, solar hot water or hot water heat pumps, electric heating systems, electric stove tops, and electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. 

A recent report from the Climate Council found that households that switch from gas to fully electric can save thousands every year. For example, the report found households in Brisbane can save up to $1,424 on their annual bills. Consumers report that the biggest barrier to accessing electric appliances is the upfront cost of making the switch, which the Australian Government can address by implementing a no-interest loans program. 

A successful example of this working is the Sustainable Household Scheme implemented by the ACT Government; in this well-subscribed scheme no-interest loans of up to $15,000 are available for clean technology.  In just over a year, the scheme has delivered more than $98 million worth of loans and 5% of all eligible households have participated. 

It should be noted, however, that this scheme will provide limited support to renters. Therefore the Australian Government should investigate other policy solutions to address the unique challenges that renters face when it comes to electrifying their homes and powering them with renewable energy.

4. Assist the most vulnerable social housing tenants to slash their power bills by providing funding and initiating the rolling out of a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) on 50,000 dwellings. 

A Virtual Power Plant is a network of smart batteries that can be coordinated to act together as a larger power plant and provide electricity to the grid when it’s needed.

In South Australia the State Government is in the process of working with Tesla to roll out Australia’s largest Virtual Power Plant, including on an initial 4,100 social housing dwellings. In the SA model, solar, storage or both are being installed in social housing dwellings at no upfront cost to the tenants and in exchange the tenants are offered the cheapest electricity in the market. 

The positives of VPPs include that they improve energy system reliability by providing grid services when needed, and they allow more households to access cheaper electricity even if their roof is not suitable for solar. 

Assisting with a scheme of this scale, that could be rolled out in partnership with state and territory governments, would provide financial assistance for the most vulnerable Australians while addressing reliability and network challenges. 

5. Work with the Queensland Government to announce Townsville and Gladstone as two of Australia’s first Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts and provide funding for the implementation of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan.

A Renewable Energy Industrial Precinct (REIP) is a hub for advanced manufacturing and processing that’s powered entirely by renewable energy backed by storage and renewable hydrogen. 

Key benefits of establishing REIPs include:

  • Attracting new local investment and industries to secure long-term good jobs and economic prosperity;
  • Providing cheaper shared infrastructure and renewable energy access to participating industry;
  • Encouraging more onshore manufacturing and minerals processing to reduce global supply chain issues. 

Townsville is a key location for a REIP because of North Queensland’s world-class co-located solar and wind resources, port facilities and proximity to the North West Minerals Province. Similarly, Central Queensland has a strong renewable energy resources and is home to key existing manufacturing industries that urgently need to be decarbonised to stay globally competitive. 

The Australian Government should support REIP development in both Townsville and Gladstone by working with the Queensland Government to fund and deliver decarbonisation roadmap plans for both regions. In addition to this, the Queensland Government needs financial support to deliver the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. Ensuring the timely build of renewable energy, transmission and storage is key to supporting the development of new renewable-powered manufacturing industries.