Labor “clean energy powerhouse” plan welcomed by RE sector

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In a plan that aims to make Australia a destination for “new investment, new jobs and new energy” the Australian Labor party will make renewables and the energy transition a major pillar of its election strategy next year. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten outline 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 a number of challenges to the energy transition at the same time. For renewables, a headline goal of 50% renewables by 2030 and a distributed battery storage plan were key pillars.

Some of the most notable measures announced today were:

  • Support for the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) with a 45% emissions reduction by 2030 target;
  • A Contracts for Difference (CfD) for new generation projects, if the NEG cannot be legislated;
  • A new $5 billion fund for targeted grid upgrades;
  • 100,000 rebates of $2000 for residential battery systems, plus low-cost financing through the Clean Energy Financing Corporation;
  • $100 million “community power network” projects for apartments, renters, or people in social housing;
  • $10 billion boost for the CEFC;
  • Australian Renewable Energy Authority (ARENA) expanded to energy efficiency;
  • And the formation of an authority to manage the transition for coal communities and industries.

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

A number of energy market stakeholders were quick to praise all or parts of 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 Coalition government to “end more than a decade of policy and investment uncertainty.

“The energy industry recognises 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 remains opportunities in this area, and there is room to improve and harmonise existing state mechanisms.”

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

“It is clear Labor recognises 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 modernise Australia’s energy system,” said CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton.

The Smart Energy Council, that had its 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 the Smart Energy 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.”