The energy sector has transformed Australia’s economic and political fortunes in recent years, with the robust development of coal and natural gas lending it the strength of export powerhouse even as the country’s political leaders have repeatedly stressed a focus on renewable energy and carbon pricing in response to widespread concerns about environmental strain.
Pointing out that Australia had adopted an ambitious renewable energy and carbon emissions reduction campaign since 2006, International Energy Agency Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven welcomed the recent release of the Australian government’s Energy White Paper 2012. The White Paper release comes as the government’s Climate Change Authority prepares to issue a final version of its review of the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) program in December, and policy supported by both documents could lend much-needed certainty for renewable energy project developers like power company AGL awaiting confirmation of earlier government targets for renewable energy deployment in Australia.
“Australia is a significant investor in low-carbon technologies and, with its extensive wind, solar and geothermal resources as well as large biomass and ocean energy potential, has begun transitioning to a clean-energy economy,” the IEA said in releasing its latest review of Australia’s energy policy this week.
The renewed interest of the global energy sector in Australia’s renewable energy policy comes as Vestas and Bloomberg New Energy Finance prepare to host the latest event highlighting country-specific data from the Corporate Renewable Energy Index and the Global Consumer Wind Study. The two companies will host an event highlighting the two data sets and reports as part of their Energy Transparency campaign in Sydney on November 21, for more details visit the campaign’s 2012 website here.
Breaking Energy is a partner with Vestas in the Energy Transparency campaign, for more from that partnership and coverage of other global events, visit our special content hub here.
While Australia has traditionally been a relatively small market in its own right, it has embarked on a broad rethink of its electricity and energy sector to emphasize clean technology and climate policy, in part to encourage investment. As proposed reform of the country’s electricity market dovetails with rising capacity factors for wind farms and a potential 2016-2020 shortfall in meeting RET goals, the country’s comparatively small existing renewable energy sector could be set for a policy-supported boom.
“The picture in Australia is similar in some ways to the US, in that government support mechanisms exist in most states but consumer support is patchy,” Vestas and Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in the 2012 Global CREX report (download a copy of the report here).
One Australian company – the telecommunications firm Republic of Everyone, which gets 100% of its 16MW of power from wind energy – was listed as “top-ranked” in the CREX. A hefty majority – 80% – of the Australian respondents to the CREX, which includes a total of 21 Australian firms – said regulatory support has a moderate to significant impact on company decisions to support renewable energy or needs to be expanded.
Broader numbers collected by Bloomberg and cited in the CREX report underline the scale of the challenge and the opportunity for renewable energy in Australia. Collected on a continental basis, companies in Oceania (which is dominated by Australia), get only 2% of their energy from renewable sources on average. That is less than the global average of 10% but within striking distance of the 5% average for North American companies.
Australians surveyed by the Global Consumer Wind Study were broadly supportive of renewable energy in response to the questions asked by Vestas and its partner in the study, TNS Gallup, underlining the strength of renewable energy’s appeal as the country prepares for a transition. Roughly 44% of Australians surveyed said they would pay extra for products produced using renewable energy, putting them in the middle of a global pack that also highlighted shoppers in India, Brazil, Germany, the US and the UK. Eight out of ten Australians polled in the same survey said that increased renewable energy use is a good solution to mitigate climate change.
With the country’s energy future at stake, initiatives like the Vestas Energy Transparency event in Sydney this week will help keep the focus on the decisions ahead of governments, companies and consumers.
This piece appears on Breaking Energy as part of the Energy Transparency series in partnership with Vestas.