Josh Frydenberg 2019 budget

Federal action on climate change has, in no uncertain terms, gone backwards over the past five years. Since coming into power, the Coalition has removed the carbon pricing scheme, played around with an extraordinarily pointless Direct Action Plan, and — despite a genuine effort from Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg — knocked back Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s Clean Energy Target after lobbying from pro-coal factions.

Now, as national greenhouse gas emissions rise for the fourth year straight and we hit record high April temperatures, Australia at least has a potential to do something with the National Energy Guarantee.

At today’s Council of Australian Governments meeting, states and territories will make their demands known, and, by the sounds of it, likely give an “amber light” on the still somewhat-opaque policy before voting on the finalised version in August.

Let’s see where everyone stands, and what they want.

Federal

Target: NEG would lock in 26% reductions on 2005 emissions levels by 2030, to reportedly be implemented across energy retailers and some large electricity users on the National Energy Market (NEM, which spans QLD, NSW, VIC, SA and TAS), after 2020 when the 23.5% Renewable Energy Target (RET) “is likely to have been met”.

Status: According to Green Energy Markets, projects already underway, contracted or tendered mean Australia will have met the 2030 goal by the early 2020s. Basically, the NEG does nothing for renewables as it stands.

ACT

Targets: 100% renewable energy sourcing by 2020; net zero emissions by 2050; all government cars to be electric by 2021.

Status: In figures provided to Crikey, ACT was at 29.1% renewable sourcing at the end of 2016-17 financial year and will shift to 51.3% at the end of 2017-18. From there, they have locked in contracts for 77.7% by 2018-19, 96.6% by 2019-20, and 100% by 2020-21.

Attitude to NEG: Pushing for higher reduction targets than the “weak” 26% goal; disallow carbon offsets, which “further hold back the transition to renewable technologies …”; and change the NEG mechanism from artificially propping “up dirty, ageing coal plants”.

Minister statement: “The policy parameters of the NEG risk an outcome that would be worse than if states and territories continued to lead the way without a NEG in place.” — Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Shane Rattenbury.

South Australia

Targets: 50% renewable sourcing by 2025; net zero emissions by 2050.

Status: The state hit that 50% target last year. Even with a new Liberal government seeking to cancel the RET (and rip up parts of the Tesla storage plan), contracts put in place by Labor and 16 years worth of momentum mean the state should still hit 75% by 2025. Plus, it already has that giant Tesla battery.

Attitude to NEG: New Liberal Premier Steven Marshall signaled SA will sign up for a national approach, but will: a) need to review policy; and b) convince a hostile upper house of any changes that could weaken renewable investment.

Victoria

Targets: Only state to actually legislate for its 25% renewable target by 2020 and 40% by 2025; net zero emissions by 2050.

Status: 16% in 2016 and, with that aforementioned legislation passing despite the lack of LNP or National votes, Victoria has now locked in ambitious reverse auction projects — the first of which just attracted roughly six times the capacity put to tender.

Attitude to NEG: Like the ACT, Victoria won’t sign on unless the policy provides both stronger emissions targets and additionality.

Ministerial statement: “We want a genuine commitment from the Turnbull government for bipartisanship in lowering emissions, growing renewables and market reform. There are thousands of Victorians’ jobs and billions of dollars of investment riding on this and we will not compromise on that.” — Energy and Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.

Queensland

Targets: 50% clean energy target by 2030; net zero emissions by 2050.

Status: Reportedly just 7% renewables at 2018. The Palaszczuk government says it is on track to meet the 50% target, and, while like Victoria it is engaging in successful reverse auctions, the 7-50% leap appears more challenging. Separately, there’s also the whole Adani-Carmichael coal mine nonsense.

Attitude to NEG: Ditto Victoria and ACT. Queensland wants to see some federal ambition and flexibility, and to not be punished for contracts/policies it has in place.

Ministerial statement: “The information to date lacks detail of the legislative mechanics for setting the national emissions target. One of our key concerns is that we want to know that the arrangements will not limit future government’s mandate to change the target.” — Queensland Energy Minister Anthony Lynham.

NSW

Targets: No statewide RET, but net zero emissions goal for 2050.

Status: A relatively late bloomer but jumped from 14% in 2015 to 19.6% in 2016. A lack of policy beyond 2020 RET could jeopardise this, but some action locked in with 2017-2022 Climate Change Fund Strategic Plan. NSW is also dealing with the national headache that is Liddell’s coal-fired power station.

Attitude to NEG: State Liberal government will almost certainly support it, but like every other state, would like some more details please.

Ministerial statement: “NSW is focused on giving certainty to the energy industry to invest and lowering power bills for all consumers — to do that we need a national plan.” — NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin.

Tasmania

Targets: 100% self-sufficient, renewable energy from 2022; net zero emissions by 2050.

Status: Reportedly hit 99% renewable power in 2015 (largely hydro-generated, some wind) and, while they went backwards to 92% in 2016 and 93% in 2017, the state is on track for 100% by 2022 with an eye to increasing its exports through the Basslink with Victoria.

Attitude to NEG: Liberal state government means they shouldn’t pose a problem, but then again Tasmania is sitting pretty and, conceivably, won’t rely on the National Energy Market for too much longer.

Ministerial statement: “We have much to offer the National Energy Market in terms of secure, renewable energy and we will work to  ensure Tasmania’s interests are fully considered in the design of the National Energy Guarantee.” — Acting Minister for Energy, Peter Gutwein.

Northern Territory

Targets: 50% renewables by 2030; no emissions goal.

Status: The NT is not connected to the NEM and currently runs off a “limited amount” of renewable energy (2% in 2016, according to the Climate Council’s more conservative figures). The Gunner government has worked towards investing in the 50% renewable target but, just this week, has also been panned for allowing fracking in 51% of the Territorywhich could create “100 times more than the emissions” saved by the NT’s RET.

Attitude to NEG: Will not vote on it as they are not physically connected to the National Electricity Market (NEM).

Western Australia

Targets: Currently no RET or emissions reduction scheme, as the state government believes in a national approach.

Status: Hit 7% renewables in 2016. Energy Minister Ben Wyatt has told Crikey that “the Public Utilities Office are currently undertaking modelling of WA’s future generation mix to assist government in assessing the suitability of the NEG and other possible emissions reduction policy”.

Attitude to NEG: While WA won’t get to vote on anything to do with the NEM, Wyatt has criticised the NEG for potentially offloading responsibility for emissions from energy to mining and resources.

Ministerial statement: “As yet the lack of detail in relation to WA has made it impossible to have an informed view on the impact of the NEG … The NEG alone will not achieve Australia’s Paris commitments.” — Ben Wyatt

Peter Fray

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