November 26, 2018

Australian Opposition Unveils “Clean Energy Powerhouse” Policies For 2019 Election Campaign

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten announced the party’s ‘all of the above’ plan for Australia’s energy sector. A ramped-up National Energy Guarantee, project auctions under a CfD structure, grid infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and a boost to battery storage all feature.

In a plan to make Australia a destination for “new investment, new jobs and new energy” the Labor party will make renewables and the energy transition a major pillar of its election strategy next year. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten outlined the plan today in a much anticipated speech, arguing that there is not “another minute to waste” on climate and energy policy in the country.

The Labor Party plan presented today represented a wide-ranging portfolio of energy policies, looking to tackle challenges to the energy transition. For clean energy, a headline goal of 50% of power from renewables by 2030 and a distributed battery storage plan were key pillars.

Among the notable measures announced were:

  • Support for the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) with a 45% emissions reduction 2030 target;
  • A contracts for difference (CfD) regime for new generation projects if the NEG cannot be legislated;
  • A $5 billion (US$3.6 billion) fund for targeted grid upgrades;
  • 100,000 rebates of $2,000 for residential battery systems, plus low-cost financing through the Clean Energy Financing Corporation (CEFC);
  • $100 million for “community power network” projects for apartments, renters, or people in social housing;
  • A $10 billion boost for the CEFC;
  • An expansion of the Australian Renewable Energy Authority(ARENA) to encompass energy efficiency; and
  • Formation of an authority to manage the transition for coal communities and industries.
  • Praise for bold policy package

“We will be providing support for renewables and firming technologies like storage and gas, and [providing] better transmission and distribution” said Shorten today, adding: “Buddling and modernizing Australia’s energy network cannot be put off or simply privatized.”

Energy market stakeholders were quick to praise the program.

The Australian Energy Council, which represents the major generators and retailers, welcomed Shorten’s call for bipartisan energy policy – in the form of the NEG – saying that it provides “another opportunity” for the ruling coalition government to “end more than a decade of policy and investment uncertainty”.

“The energy industry recognizes that Labor is committed to a stronger carbon target, and welcomes the clarity Labor has provided regarding the role we would play to meet it, if it wins government,” said Australian Energy Council chief executive Sarah McNamara, in a statement. “The proposal for a major review into energy efficiency policy is also welcome. The Australian Energy Council considers there remain opportunities in this area, and there is room to improve and harmonize existing state mechanisms.”

Contrast with present government is stark

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) hailed Labor’s decision on the NEG as a “smart and sensible move”, adding the battery storage initiative is a “massive economic opportunity”.

“It is clear Labor recognizes both the challenge and remarkable opportunity of moving from fossil fuels to clean energy in the decades ahead, and has moved strongly with a range of measures to modernize Australia’s energy system,” said CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton.

The Smart Energy Council, which had statistics cited by Shorten during his address, strongly welcomed Labor’s “massive battery announcement”. It did not initially comment on Labor’s NEG position – having long opposed the policy as advanced by the coalition government.

“The contrast between the federal government’s commitment to propping up coal, and the opposition’s plan to transition to cheap, reliable, clean, renewable energy could not be starker,” said council’s John Grimes. “Detailed analysis undertaken by the Smart Energy Council has shown that Australia could install 450,000 battery storage systems by 2020.”

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