The head of the Energy Protection Board calls for a ‘agreed national emission reduction pathway’ between federal, provincial and territorial governments
In the midst of rising international pressure on climate policy, the Morrison government seems to be moving closer to its zero emissions goal by 2050.
Kerry Schott, head of the Energy Protection Board (ESB) of the government, called for national energy policy unity after the body issued a new report calling disagreements between Australian governments a “challenge” to the electricity market of the country.
Schott said investors in large-scale renewable energy projects needed reassurance that they would not face shortages when linked to the power grid, with 60% of Australia’s coal-fired power plants expected to close over the next two decades.
The electricity system in Australia relies heavily on coal. The aging generation fleet, the massive influx of solar and wind power and the patchy climate policy system have created significant headaches for the electricity sector.
Local, territorial and federal ministers will consider the reforms proposed this year by the ESB to ensure that coal-fired generation is phased out in an orderly manner. Experts claim that for a future in which power generation is more decentralized and rooftop solar is much more common, the national electricity market needs to be’ fit for purpose.’
However, in an accompanying paper on the state of the national electricity market, the ESB claimed that the transition “would be less difficult if there was an agreed national emissions reduction pathway” among the energy ministers of the country.
Asked if she would support the adoption of net-zero emissions by 2050 by the federal government to get everyone on the same page, Schott said, “Yes, I would.”
Schott said, “But it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I think the federal government is under international pressure in terms of their emissions target overall, not just the power sector … They’re softening their language and clearly moving in that direction without really saying it.”
In the second half of the century, the Morrison government says it is committed to a net-zero emissions target, and although it has never expressly ruled out a target for 2050, it has argued that it would not do so without naming the cost.
As an increasing number of Australia’s trading partners, including Japan, South Korea and the European Union, have embraced the goal, political pressure has increased, whereas China has set a target of 2060.
“After the U.S. presidential election – when Joe Biden won on a platform that included returning the country to the Paris Agreement and placing the nation on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050 – Scott Morrison said he was trying “as quickly as possible” to achieve that goal. At a recent climate summit, the prime minister was turned away as a speaker.
The ESB paper reports that by 2050, all states and territories in the energy sector in the nation have committed to net zero.
“As each state and territory pursues its own target to 2030 and beyond to 2050, managing NEM operations is an ongoing challenge,” the report states.
“all moving at different speeds”all moving at different speeds,”that the actions they take for themselves actually impact the entire national electricity market.”that the actions they take for themselves have a real impact on the entire national market for electricity.
She said the roadmap for NSW’s electricity system is relatively new, but “have gone full steam ahead on renewables” and that has implications for neighboring states.
Schott called for stronger inter-jurisdictional cooperation.
Schott also said investors in large-scale renewables need confidence that they would not “spend a few hundred million to install a generator and then find they can’t deliver their power because the grid is overloaded.”
Priorities for post-2025 reforms are described in the ESB report, including ensuring stable supply during the energy transition, better demand management and ensuring the incorporation of renewables into the grid.
Schott was optimistic about the possibilities offered by the energy transition to ordinary energy customers, saying the proliferation of rooftop solar decentralizes the production of electricity.
Consumers have always been very slow-moving, taking energy from electricity.