Back in May we had a look at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) report on renewable energy futures in Australia to answer the questions, posed by the Greens, whether it is it possible to achieve a 100% renewables scenario by 2030 or 2050, and secondly, how much will it cost, and how much that compares to business as usual. In summary:
The short answer is, yes, we can have 100% renewable electricity supply by 2050, or by 2030, but it will cost. Depending on the assumptions the cost will be between $219 and $332 billion, a very large figure. Yet this would yield a wholesale price while more than double the current price or about the same as Treasury’s carbon price modelling projected under government policy for 2030.
In this context it must be noted that network upgrades in the last five years have totalled around $45 billion.
The AEMO document is available here.
Giles Parkinson now again raises the issue:
A “community summary” posted on the Department of Climate Change website, highlights the fact that the various scenarios painted by Treasury, the CSIRO, the UNSW, and now the AEMO modeling suggests that wholesale prices – whatever the scenario – will fall in a generally narrow range of around $100/MWh to $130/MWh in 2030, and $110/MWh to $150/MWh in 2050.
Parkinson cites an interview with Simon Corbell, the Labor minister for the environment and sustainable development in the ACT’s and the architect of their Big Solar program, who thinks that a 90% renewables target would cost no more to consumers if tied in with energy efficiency and other measures.
Corbell noted that:
the real push back comes from incumbent generators and vested interests, because it is they who face lower revenues and profits – which is why their industrial lobby groups are calling for a dilution of Australia’s relatively modest 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020 (in the case of the generators), or for climate policy to be completely re-evaluated (in the case of the Business Council of Australia).
And so it goes with other interest groups.
More ambitious scenarios such as those recommended by The Greens “are seen as reckless, dangerous, marginal or fringe policies”, self-evidently more expensive and costing jobs.
The frustration is that while such targets form part of the mainstream policy discussion in most other countries, each of the big parties in Australia are as keen as the other to put as much distance between themselves and the Greens. So while most other countries debate how quickly they should be moving to decarbonise the economy, the overall theme in Australia is how slowly it should be done.
Both major parties have the option of being more forthright in addressing climate change. John Quiggin pointed out the AEMO report provided a blueprint for Abbott’s direct action. Also the cost over a couple of decades would be a barely detectable deduction from the growth in national income.