It provides governments a firm framework within which to build complex policy, turning promises and ambition into a concrete goal. And it provides local NT solar companies with a stable set of conditions with which to operate their businesses.
Territorians love renewables, there’s no doubt about it. And the Territory has some of the richest renewable energy resources in the world. But currently, a high percentage of electricity supply in the Territory is from gas-fired generation, with roughly 10% from renewables generation.
A renewable energy target (RET) is a target percentage set by the government of how much electricity is generated using renewable electricity by a particular year.
It is a market-based mechanism that can unlock an explosion of investment in renewable energy, such as solar. Through a RET, a certificate market for renewables can be created to ensure that retailers purchase enough renewables to meet this target, helping lower wholesale prices and driving more competition. At the federal level, a renewable energy target has proven itself as Australia’s most successful and long-lived climate policy for the energy sector.
The current NT government has set a policy of achieving 50% renewables for electricity supply by 2030. In 2017 an independent expert panel released a report providing the government with a roadmap to achieve this target whilst maintaining the affordability of energy supply, and without compromising network reliability and security. Local renewable energy experts agree that the 50% renewable energy by 2030 target remains achievable. Completing the Roadmap to Renewables' 50 enabling actions remain vital to achieving the RET and should be used to develop major energy policy.
It is vital we have bipartisan support of an ambitious renewable energy target of at least 50% by 2030 to ensure there is policy stability, prod retailers or generators to do what they are supposed to do, and give investors confidence that a renewables investment is a safe bet.
Reducing the target removes government mandate to drive the transition to renewables. Inevitably this leads to lowered ambition and lowered support for renewables through government policy and/or direct investment. Cutting back the RET risks future investment because many companies looking at investing in projects in the NT that would help deliver the target are now likely to think twice.
Solar is cheaper than gas. Take the electricity that will be produced by Livingstone Solar, the Northern Territory’s largest locally-owned and financed solar farm, to be constructed 30km south of Darwin near Berry Springs. In an interview with The Environment Centre NT, project manager of the farm and director of NT Solar Futures Ilana Eldridge states that while the wholesale price of power in the Northern Territory is over $200/MWH, the Livingstone Solar Farm will produce power for under $100/MWH - less than half the current cost!
When fully operational and connected to the Darwin-Katherine grid, the Livingstone Farm’s 100,000+ solar panels are expected to provide 5% of Darwin’s power demand or the equivalent of 13,000 homes. The $100 million projects will provide more than 200 local jobs during its construction phase and will contribute to the regional economy and community. Now in its final feasibility stages, it should be “shovel-ready” early next year.
Ilana Eldridge is just one of thousands of Territorians already working in the solar industry. It is vital that NT solar entrepreneurs have a government that supports their business endeavors.
Continued renewables growth requires transmission infrastructure and storage technologies to ensure the distributed energy can be delivered where it is needed, and that reliability is maintained. Although there is a cost attached to this transition to renewables, it is exactly that – a transition period. What will follow that transition period will be many lifetimes of low-cost renewable energy. Delaying or drawing out this period of transition by reducing or abandoning the renewable energy target only sets the Territory up for a larger and larger gap between what will be the high fossil-fuel prices of the Northern Territory and the low-cost renewable-generated electricity of other Australian states and Territories and around the world.
Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory all have targets to grow renewable energy to 50% by 2030. South Australia has a more ambitious target of net 100% in the 2030s and Tasmania is on track for 100% by 2022. The Australian Capital Territory has achieved its target of 100% renewable electricity by 2020. Find out where the NT stands in comparison to other states and territories in the Climate Council's renewables scorecard.