Main Image: The report says momentum behind renewables can only be slowed by policymakers, not stopped. Photograph: Lucy Hughes Jones/APP
Study says 40% of transport could be emissions-free by 2035 and neighbors could trade clean electricity.
A total shift to renewable energy would pay for itself through cost savings within two decades, and ultimately save Australians $20bn a year in combined fuel and power costs, a new report says.
The report, released on Thursday morning, outlines a path to powering homes and businesses from renewable sources by 2030. By 2035, 40% of transport could be emissions free, it says.
Nicky Ison, the report’s co-author and a founding director of the Community Power Agency (CPA), said that despite political sparring over energy policy, momentum behind renewables can only be slowed by policymakers, not stopped.
“As the climate and energy wars continue to rage, a central policy that would actually enable rather than stifle the growth of renewables and other clean energy options currently looks unlikely,” Ison said.
“Calling for bipartisan support could really be holding us back, giving more power to those who want to oppose the transition to clean energy.
“Meanwhile, state and local governments, households, communities, farmers, and businesses large and small are getting on with the job of repowering Australia with clean, affordable energy. The going can be unnecessarily tough, as the rules of the game are stacked against them, but progress is happening at a remarkable rate.”
The report calls for a “public interest” retailer: a body to provide services such as efficiency upgrades to low-income households in order to reduce their power bills.
It also says the electricity market, which is dominated by large power companies, should “act more like the internet”.
“Think eBay, but for local energy,” the report says.
“Right now, people are completely beholden to a clunky, centralised electricity system and the handful of companies that dominate it. By shifting the electricity network business model from analog to digital, millions of us could trade clean energy locally, instead of a few big centralised generators selling us their polluting power from far away.
“Imagine a website that lets you easily buy your electricity from your neighbour, or get it from the nearby solar garden that you part-own, or the wind turbine at your friend’s farm at the edge of town.”
The plan calls for better access to solar, particularly for apartment dwellers, speeding up the rollout of battery technology, establishing an electric vehicle charging network, and re-skilling the workforce.
In particular, as the country transitions away from coal, gas and other fossil fuels, communities that rely on those industries should be granted a “just transition”.
“Snap closures of coal-fired power plants in Port Augusta and Latrobe Valley show why the foundations of a post-coal future must be laid early if workers and communities are to thrive through the transition,” the report says.
“Federal and state governments should immediately start to develop community-driven economic renewal plans in areas facing closures. They should work with unions, employers and community groups to retrain workers, fully fund early retirement, and create redeployment options.”
The CPA estimates the household cost savings from transitioning to renewable power will account for 110% of the cost to finance the shift. Carbon pollution is estimated to reduce from about 450m tonnes in 2015 to 196m tonnes in 2030.
“The more we turbocharge business, industry, community and household renewables, the more we tear down the barriers,” Ison said.
“We demonstrate that renewables work, that they have public and political support and that they are cheaper and more reliable.”
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