South Australia launches new clean energy plan to combat grid black-out issues

Author:
Ilario D'Amato
20 March 2017

LONDON: In the past six months, the state of South Australia has been hit by a major storm and severe heatwaves that have disrupted its electricity transmission network – causing three state-wide blackouts. The state has now released a new energy plan to improve energy security and continue its journey towards a cleaner energy system.

Under the new plan, the state is aiming to build the largest grid-connected battery in Australia to store energy - funded by a new clean technology fund - as well as a government-owned 250 megawatts gas-fired power plant, able to provide backup power for the grid.

Libby Ferguson, States & Regions Director, The Climate Group, commented: “South Australia is going in the right direction, showing that a strong political commitment to clean energy – combined with technical ingenuity – is the way to sustain and accelerate the transition to a net-zero future.

“All forms of energy are vulnerable to disruption during extreme weather events, and the new plan highlights the importance of climate adaptation on a broader level. Climate change is intensifying the number of events like the ones that led to South Australia’s blackout. However, while renewables’ technology is developing quickly, the grid technology is still based on a slow, coal-based world.”

Now Elon Musk, the co-founder of electric car giant Tesla and solar energy services leader SolarCity, announced he could help South Australia to overcome these issues. The billionaire has offered to install a total of 300 megawatt hours of batteries as a backup for such events, pledging that “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature, or it is free.”

“A corporate leader such as Elon Musk is recognizing the role that businesses can and must play in creating a more sustainable, prosperous society,” says Libby Ferguson. “It is through the inspiring partnerships between business and policymakers that we can both solve the challenges and grasp the opportunities of the clean energy transition.”

South Australia, one of the co-chairs of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance, is investing heavily in renewable energy. In May last year, the state shut down its last coal-fired power plant, and currently it relies on wind power for more than a third of its energy, with coal covering just a fifth of the total energy mix.

A COUNTRY OF OPPORTUNITIES

At a national level, Australia has one of the highest penetrations of residential rooftop photovoltaics in the world – around 1.4 million systems have been installed so far – and renewable energy provided 14.6% of the country’s electricity in 2015.

Across Australia, investment in major clean energy projects in 2015 reached A$1.2 billion, with nearly all investments receiving support either from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency or state-based renewable energy programs.

South Australia is grasping the opportunities arising from a clean economy, with 41% of its electricity powered by renewable sources and the recent completion of new wind farms.

“Premier Jay Weatherill is demonstrating bold climate leadership, balancing the state’s economic growth and its exemplary climate targets” remarks Libby Ferguson, “and we are proud to have him as a co-chair of our global States & Regions Alliance.”

“States, regions and provinces are the ‘unsung heroes’ of climate change: they are closest to their citizens, with the right powers to create cleaner, more prosperous economies and more liveable societies.”

South Australia is also part of the Energy Transition Platform, The Climate Group’s initiative that supports state and regional governments in developing innovative climate policies,  through which they share the achievements and challenges of the state’s clean energy transition.

In this collaborative network of like-minded governments, South Australia also highlighted specific strategies that offer key solutions to the challenges it faces, including the pioneering energy storage policies of California.

South Australia’s capital, Adelaide, is also on a pathway to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city; further evidence of the state’s commitment to a net-zero emissions society. The state is also aiming to achieve A$10 billion in low carbon investment by 2025, while producing half of its electricity from renewables by the same date and improving energy efficiency of government buildings by 30% by 2020.

South Australia's green energy targets, from South Australia's Energy Policy 2017

A LEADING NETWORK

South Australia is committed to curbing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 80% through the Under2 Coalition, of which The Climate Group act as Secretariat. The Coalition is a group of 167 governments, spanning six continents and 33 countries, committed to reducing their GHG emissions by 80-95% on 1990 levels, or by 2 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per capita, by 2050.

Initiated in 2015 by the governments of California and Baden-Württemberg – two leading members of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance – the Under2 Coalition is driving climate leadership and increasing the global influence of sub-national governments.

“These states are showing the world that a cleaner, more prosperous future for all is possible,” concludes Libby Ferguson. “South Australia’s inspiring policies are among the best practices shared in our network, showing how bold action on renewables attracts business ingenuity.”

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