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Ahead of the Federal Government’s expected commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050, the Clean Energy Council says that any roadmap must include a clear target for Australia to be powered by renewable energy by 2030.

With planning underway for a new technology roadmap, powering Australia with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 would provide Australia with a 44.5 per cent cut in carbon emissions on 2005 levels.

“Decarbonising the electricity sector is the most efficient pathway to net-zero by 2050, so the sooner we get it done, the sooner we can focus on the areas of the economy that can take advantage of our low-cost zero-emissions electricity,” says Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton.

“A formal commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 from Australia should be accompanied by a strong interim target for 2030 consistent with the latest climate science, international obligations and Australia’s potential to reduce emissions.

“Australians expect that any targets are met with real progress, not just slogans, and there is a clear expectation from the international community for Australia to turn its reputation as a climate laggard around ahead of COP26.

“The renewable energy industry has done the heavy lifting on reducing Australia’s emissions over the past decade and has proven its ability to meet and beat any target put in front of it.

“Australia should be aiming to meet its domestic electricity demand with renewable energy and storage by 2030. This would provide us with the foundation to become a global clean energy superpower, electrifying other sectors of the economy currently dependent on fossil fuels, such as transport and heavy industry, and exporting clean energy to Asia and the world.”

CSIRO’s 2020-21 GenCost Report found that solar and wind are the cheapest sources of new-build electricity generation, even when integration costs, including storage and infrastructure, are factored in.

An immediate target would recognise this and allow Australia to leverage the leadership of state and territory governments, setting us on a path to meet all of our electricity demand with renewable energy sources by 2030.

For a rapid transition by 2030, the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan modelling shows that 4.2 GW of utility-scale and behind-the-meter capacity will need to be added every year from 2022-2030 (inclusive of 2030).

Coal-fired generators are currently responsible for providing the majority of Australia’s electricity needs. Government has a clear role to play in ensuring that the transition away from coal-fired electricity is orderly, maintains energy security, avoids price spikes that have followed past closures, supports affected workers and communities, and ensures that Australia meets its emissions reduction commitments.

While the renewable energy sector currently employs over 28,000 people across Australia, there is enormous opportunity to grow that with the right policy and regulatory measures. Around 10,000 Australians are employed in the domestic thermal coal sector, with the coal workforce representing more than 5 per cent of the community in some regions.

“These communities need some level of certainty and forewarning about future coal generation closures, along with strong investment in reskilling and creating new employment opportunities,” said Thornton.

“Renewable energy has the power to reduce carbon emissions, drive economic growth and create jobs and career pathways. Now is the time to accelerate the clean energy transition.”