Climate policy done right: Tasmania sets 200% RE target by 2040

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While the federal government has only recently accepted the fact that Australia can reach 50% renewables share by 2030, the same target it criticized as reckless and economy-wrecking during the last election, Tasmania is walking the talk on climate change with the announcement of an eye-watering renewable energy target of 200% by 2040. To achieve this, the island state has pledged to double its renewable energy production.

In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Premier Peter Gutwein said it was time to further build on the state’s impressive climate record to ensure Tasmania remained the renewable energy powerhouse of Australia. “We know this State is well placed to be far more ambitious,” the premier said. “Tasmania has the opportunity to ensure that the most compelling 21st century competitive advantage that industry and consumers want – renewable energy – underpins our economy in Tasmania, attracting investment, creating jobs and also supporting Australia transition to a renewable base load supply.”

Green hydrogen, pumped hydro and transmission infrastructure

The state government is readying to release a new Renewable Energy Action Plan next month, a blueprint for the state’s ambitious climate agenda. According to Gutwein, an important part of this plan will be capitalizing on Tasmania’s competitive advantages to produce hydrogen for domestic use by 2022-24 and export by 2025-27. “Tasmania’s low cost and reliable renewable energy means that Tasmania is 10-15% more competitive than our mainland counterparts when it comes to attracting investment in “green hydrogen”,” he said.

The renewable energy pledge, which is unprecedented in Australia, closely follows the Tasmanian government’s announcement of a $50 million investment package toward its green hydrogen ambitions over the next 10 years. “This will not only create new jobs and industries for Tasmania but will help meet the energy demands of the mainland whilst reducing Australia’s emissions,” Gutwein said.

To help mainland Australia reduce its emissions by exporting more renewable energy, Tasmania is currently progressing two projects, the Marinus Link and the Battery of the Nation (BoN). The proposed Marinus Link is a 1,500 MW second undersea interconnector that would help deliver renewable energy from Tasmania to Victoria to help stabilize the national grid, while the BoN initiative seeks to utilize the state’s advantage in pumped hydro storage to help free up the bunged-up pipeline of solar and wind in Victoria.

“We are currently progressing the Marinus link, which is set to underpin 1,400 new jobs in Tasmania, with up to 2,350 jobs also being created from further renewable energy investment and our nation-leading Battery of the Nation proposal,” said Gutwein. “The combined investment has the potential to inject $7.1 billion into the Tasmanian economy over the coming years – leaving no one in any doubt that Tasmania is in fact the battery of the nation.”

Solar?

It is yet to be seen what the Renewable Energy Action Plan may bring for the state’s solar sector. Namely, while there has been a lot going on in terms of wind and hydro, solar has enjoyed less popularity in Tasmania. According to OpenNEM’s data, hydro has accounted for 75.9% of the energy mix over the last one year period, followed by 10.3% wind. Rooftop solar stood at 1.6%, lagging far behind all other states and territories.

Presently, there are no operational utility-scale solar farms. The state’s largest solar project – the 12.5 MW Wesley Solar Farm – was given the green light in 2018 but was not heard of since. The project was proposed by renewables developer Epuron, which previously secured approval for another big project – the 5 MW George Town Solar, which has not been commissioned to date.

Aim higher

But with its 100% renewables target by 2022 at hand, primarily due to its vast hydroelectricity generation, the Tasmanian government says it knows the state is well placed to be far more ambitious. However, it is also aware that drafting the pathway to 200% renewables by 2040 will be a demanding task.

“Any new target needs to be evidence-based and informed by both science and economics,” said Gutwein. “Therefore, I have requested that central agencies DPAC and Treasury, in concert with DPIPWE and State Growth, conduct a detailed analysis of the pathway our state would need to take and the impacts on industry and jobs to achieve a target of zero net emissions prior to 2050.”

The process will include targeted consultation with industry, the business sector, and the community and will occur over the next six months. The outcomes of the consultation will inform amendments to the Climate Change Act, which is currently under review, and Tasmania’s new Climate Action Plan for post-2021.

(No) emissions profile

“Tasmania has a proud history of being a quiet leader on climate action, it is now time to showcase our innovation to the world and stake our claim as a renewables powerhouse,” the premier said on Tuesday. According to the last greenhouse gas inventory, Tasmania has met its legislated emissions reduction target for the sixth year in a row and its greenhouse gas emissions have declined by 95% from 1990 levels. “Our net emissions profile is the envy of the nation and we are one of the lowest emitters in the world however there is more to be done,” Gutwein said.

As per emissions from transport, Tasmania is building a network to power the next generation of vehicles on its roads with its abundant renewable energy. The network will be supported by 14 fast-charging stations at 12 locations across the state which will be installed this year with the help of over $500,000 worth of government grants.

“It is important that Government takes a leadership role in the use of low emissions vehicles and in this year’s budget we will begin to transition our fleet which currently has only around 3% in the low emissions category,” Gutwein said. “I have requested Treasury provide advice on an achievable, affordable but ambitious timeframe to transition us to a low emissions fleet.”