WA Renewable Energy Target

Why a WA Renewable Energy Target (WARET) anyhow?

As a signatory to the RenewWA Climate Consensus Statement set of policy asks, Sustainable Energy Now endorses the call for a WA specific RET and a mechanism to drive private investment towards ambitious Renewable Energy (RE) targets. We call on any present and would be future governments to set immediate Renewable Energy Targets for 2020 and 2025, culminating in a target of 100% RE by 2030.

A WARET would provide transparency in Government policy objectives for all concerned: government departments, private industry, investors and the vast majority of people in Western Australia who want a transition to renewables alike. Establishing an ambitious WARET, should a future government choose to do so, would offer accountability to the vast majority of Western Australians who repeatedly say they choose renewables as the best source of power for the future of WA. Recent Reachtel polling undertaken for the environment movement confirms this with 83% of voters in five marginal seats at the State election saying they choose renewables over all other power generation technologies for our future energy needs.

False accusations:

The recent public attacks by major political parties on the merit of a WARET and alleged problems with Renewable Energy targets in general are broadcasting a series of populist and false conjectures about renewable energy systems. This conjecture does not reflect the enormous benefits Western Australians would enjoy directly — through cheaper wholesale power prices — and to the state economy from a rapid, orderly transition to Renewable Energy.

Changes in energy generation are already apace which will disrupt coal baseload generators throughout Australia — no matter what policies get enacted at the government level. That's thanks to the democratisation of energy generation which rooftop solar PV has enabled. Many consultants and executives in industry already refer to this as the clean energy revolution. While WA hosts some of Australia's rooftop PV-postcode hotspots, at a utility scale WA has seen it once promising wind industry languish. There's been no approvals and no new developments in two whole terms of government all the while as hundreds of millions of dollars have started to flow to the Eastern states to buy the Renewable Energy Certificates Synergy are required to surrender under the national RET scheme.

Other states and territories in Australia are doing much better. ACT has now locked in cheaper energy prices for the next 15 years under power purchase agreements (PPAs) with RE developers to take ACT to 100% RE.

South Australians now enjoying ~48% RE have seen large wind farms get built and the consequent reductions in wholesale energy prices as the result of reducing the number of price spike events in their wholesale electricity market. Wind has also been cheaper than coal in South Australia for years, and it's squeezed the two existing coal plants Northern and Playford out of their wholesale market because of it's ability to underbid coal into the market. This is the so-called Merit Order Effect in action.

The just transition we seek for the Collie power industry workers and their community that relies on this economic activity needs the role for Government, and strong government policy direction to offer hope and ensure private investment. Consideration to alternative economic activities in the region which that do not pollute the local airshed and don't destroy the climate for future generations must also be supported with funding for studies for what the future of clean generation looks like in WA and how COllie can become a hub for that economic activity.

Jobs and Industry:

At SEN we see installation of wind turbines, blades, towers and power circuitry plus component and mountings manufacturing for wind and solar as tremendous employment and industrial opportunities if Collie people are supported as early movers into the WA renewables industry. Moving early could establish Collie as a hub for the new energy industry taking advantage of the existing electrical transmission capacity and the human skills base.

As investment in utility scale renewables across WA picks up the greater Collie and neighbouring regions could become a hub for not just renewables component manufacturing but also for clean energy powered minerals processing and other energy intensive industries (biomass processing to biofuels for example) that can utilise WAs renewable energy superpower potential (as identified in the Beyond Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Superpower Report).

Our Counter Claims:

THOUSANDS OF LOCAL JOBS

SEN’s research shows that the Muja ABCD and Collie power stations can be retired by 2021, with generation capacity replaced by 1,800 MW of new wind energy, 1,400 MW of new solar PV and 400 MW of biomass generation (for a total of 4,600 MW of RE, including existing facilities). Details of the predicted jobs for each technology are shown in our Jobs Revolution Briefing Note — 3/2/2017 in Table 1. Reputable sources for the assumptions we used in estimating our jobs figures are also in that document.

Development of this new infrastructure would provide enormous, ongoing economic benefits for the WA economy (see Table 1 in the Jobs Revolution Briefing Note for more detail):

  • 37,000 job-years in construction and 6,000 job-years in manufacturing over 5 years
  • 1,400 additional Operations and Maintenance jobs
  • $7.1 billion of private investment in wind and PV plus $1 billion in new transmission lines

The Collie community will be directly affected by the phase out of coal-fired generation. However, it can grow and prosper if some of the new RE generation is directed to the region. It is essential that this transition be done in a carefully planned way, to minimise disruption to that community. This can be achieved through, for example:

  • Installing 1,000 MW of wind farms, 200 MW of utility scale solar PV east and west of Collie (see blue outlines on Fig. 1), and 400 MW of biomass
  • Creating permanent renewable electricity jobs for the community, plus initial construction and other supporting jobs
  • Establishing local manufacturing industry for wind turbine pylons and blades, and solar panel support structures, etc

See our two page PDF Jobs Revolution Briefing Note for further information and specifics (376 kB Download)

 Aerial photo of Collie region with wind farms locations annotated onto image

Fig. 1

CHEAPER POWER BILLS

SEN has modelled phasing out of the 25 to 50 year old coal generators on WA’s SWIS grid and replacing them with wind and solar PV, retaining existing gas. Technology costs were assumed to be the same as power purchase agreements (PPA’s) already struck for commercial wind and tracking PV in Australia during 2016: $75/MWh for wind and $69/MWh for solar PV. These are conservative estimates – a PV installation in Dubai currently under construction will sell power for $40/ MWh.

So how will this new clean energy affect SWIS electricity prices? Wholesale prices will rise $7 to $105/MWh, which equates to less than 1c/kWh. The average householder will pay less than $50 per year more for their electricity. Compare this to a business as usual scenario including the replacement of existing coal with with ‘clean coal’ generators. Wholesale prices would increase to $124/MWh and electricity prices would rise by 2c/kWh, double the cost of the wind and solar option. And CO2 emissions would remain stuck at 84% of current levels.

For more detailed information on how renewables drive down wholesale energy costs take a look at our 2 page 'Economics' briefing note: Renewable Electricity in WA: the Economic Argument.

HEALTHIER FUTURE FOR OUR KIDS 

The costs in health terms to communities where coal and gas industries operate have been quantified in numerous international studies. These health impacts are evident in Australia too of course. A study published in Medical Journal Australia demonstrates that the health costs of burning coal are equivalent to a national health burden of around $A2.6 billion per annum.

The cost of catastrophic climate change is essentially incalculable, but in one of the most extensive multidisciplinary health and economics reports ever written, they declared "Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century". This report was published in what's arguably the most prestigious medical journal in existence, The Lancet and they consider it so important, they've made the report available free for download: Managing the health effects of climate change.

For further information on the health impacts our communities are subject to from fossil fuel extraction and electrical power generation and more on the existential threats climate change presents in terms of health outcomes, including mental health, go to the Doctors for the Environment website. Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) partnered with Conservation Council WA, The Uniting Church in Western Australia and Yes2Renewables in creating the RenewWA brand and campaign.         

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