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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

ACT a ‘nation-leader’ in renewable energy

The ACT is the first jurisdiction outside Europe with a population of more than 100,000 to achieve 100% renewable energy, Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Energy, Water, and Emissions Reduction, announced in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday 3 December.

The Greens leader tabled the 2019–20 Minister’s Report under the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act 2010, which aims to develop policies and practices to address climate change, set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and monitor and report on the targets.

“Through our fifth Renewables Auction in 2019–20, we secured renewable electricity systems to support our growing population and help us replace fossil fuel gas and transport fuel with zero emissions electricity from wind and solar farms,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“Achieving this target is a great outcome in itself. It also means we have more opportunities for continued emissions abatement. We know that all-electric options for homes and businesses don’t just save money, they are also now emissions-free. And as we look to take more action in the transport sector, electric vehicles offer a good solution – reducing noise in our streets, improving air quality, and providing a zero-emission alternative to fossil fuel.”

Target exceeded

Switching to renewable energy has allowed the Territory to exceed its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% on 1990 levels, Mr Rattenbury said. The ACT Government intends to reduce emissions by 50 to 60% (below 1990 levels) by 2025, and achieve net zero emissions by 2045, based on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In fact, 2019–20 emissions (1684 kilotons of carbon dioxide equivalent) were 45.3% below 1990 levels. The government has claimed this is “a nation-leading milestone”.

“While we should all be proud of these achievements, we are still faced with confronting reminders that climate change is here and its impacts are growing,” Mr Rattenbury said today (Friday 4 December).

“Having declared a climate emergency, we need to get on with the job of cutting emissions and making our community, buildings and infrastructure more resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.”

Reducing emissions

The Government now intends to reduce emissions from transport and fossil fuel gas, which produce more than 80% of the ACT’s emissions, Mr Rattenbury said. Transport – the largest source of emissions – accounted for 57% of total emissions in 2019–20, and fossil fuel gas for 21%.

Transport emissions in previous years had grown by around 2% annually; this year, they decreased by 11% during 2019–20. Mr Rattenbury acknowledged this sharp reduction was partly due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel, and expected some rebound of transport emissions as the economy recovered.

“But we remain on the path to our longer-term emissions reduction targets,” he said. Fossil fuel gas emissions also decreased, down 1.3% from previous years.

The government will implement measures that build on the ACT Climate Change Strategy and its Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City, Mr Rattenbury announced.

He said the Government helped ACT residents transition to electric vehicles through stamp duty exemption and a 20% registration discount for zero emission vehicles; amended planning rules to make it easy to install electric charging stations; and opened transit lanes to electric vehicles.

The Government also entered into a partnership with ActewAGL and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to pilot grid-connected electric vehicle batteries; this will support the grid during peak demand, and reduce ownership costs for drivers and fleet operators, Mr Rattenbury said.

In 2019–20, the Government installed solar panels on a dozen public and community housing properties, which will generate more than 340,000 kilowatt hours of cheap electricity each year; removed the mandatory requirement for new suburbs to be connected to natural gas; and released a discussion paper seeking the public’s views on transitioning out of natural gas use.

The ACT Government was committed to achieving zero emissions in its own operations by 2040, five years earlier than the 2045 target for the whole community, Mr Rattenbury said. Government emissions in 2019–20 were 40% lower than in 2018–19, due to 100% renewable electricity.

Projects to bring down ACT Government emissions include making the new Canberra Hospital extension all-electric – the first for a major medical facility in a cold climate – and building the ACT’s first major all-electric zero emissions office at Dickson Park. The Government also funded solar panels and batteries at two schools; funded gas-to-electric upgrades for public pools; and helped households, schools and businesses reduce their emissions through Actsmart.

The ACT Government received two national awards from the Cities Power Partnership, Australia’s largest local government climate network: the Renewable Energy Achievement Award for its $25 million program rolling out smart battery storage to homes and small businesses; and the Energy Efficiency Award for the Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme (EEIS), requiring energy retailers to help households and businesses reduce their energy demand. The EEIS has been extended to 2030.

The ACT Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2019–20, released later this month, will provide further detail.

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts