Renewables Will Allow Australia To Meet Paris Commitment: ANU Report
Australia will meet its Paris commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions if the nation continues its love affair with solar and wind power, an independent study has found but argues it could be put at risk without extra investment in transmission and storage.
The Australian National University research found Australians were taking-up solar and wind energy at such a fast rate the country would not have to use contentious “carryover” accounting credits from the Kyoto climate accord.
The Morrison government has come under fire from Labor, the Greens and environmental groups over how Australia will meet its Paris commitments to cut greenhouse emissions by 26 and 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
Since the abolition of the carbon tax in 2014, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased. Latest figures showed that, in the 12 months to the end of March, Australia’s emissions were up by 0.6 per cent.
The government has maintained it will meet its Paris commitment in a “canter”, largely through the use of so-called “carryover” credits which it says represent the level of emissions Australia has “beaten” from its Kyoto protocol commitment.
Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions
ANU researchers Andrew Blakers and Matt Stocks said Australia’s emissions would fall by 4 per cent between next year and 2022 with up to 17 gigawatts of wind and solar power “locked-in” and set to be deployed by the end of next year.
Emission reductions in the power sector are falling at 10 megatonnes a year due to the fast rate of wind and solar photovoltaics being brought into the system.
Overall emissions out to 2022 would fall as increases in other parts of the economy would be more than offset by the reductions from electricity production.
“We are just starting to see large drops in electricity emissions from the recent increases in wind and solar deployment, with more to come from wind and solar currently being built,” Dr Stocks said.
If current renewable energy deployment rates were continued out to 2030, the researchers found this would cut emissions by 125 megatonnes. Australia currently produces 540 megatonnes.
They said solar PV and wind are now cheaper than new-build fossil or nuclear power stations and will soon compete directly with existing black coal power stations.
“Australia’s elderly coal fleet can be largely retired over the 2020s at low or zero net cost,” they found.
The cut in emissions would be enough to cover Australia’s Paris commitments without requiring carryover credits.
But they warned if the renewable energy pipeline was stopped or slowed down, then emissions may start to climb from 2022. Changes in land clearing rates, an increase in coal mining or much faster economic growth would also add to emissions.
Professor Blakers said the construction of transmission lines to connect wind and solar farms from regional areas into major cities and across state borders was necessary to ensure emissions from electricity were cut.
That may include an additional undersea cable between Victoria and Tasmania to access the island state’s wind and hydro generation and storage resources.
“Federal and state governments can ensure that emissions continue to fall on the back of renewable energy by enabling adequate electricity transmission and energy storage,” he said.
The researchers said the federal government needed to maintain support for the renewables sector and urged states to establish so-called “renewable energy zones”.
These zones, that would cover wind, sun or pumped-hydro power and storage systems, could be directly connected to power grids.