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Australia's Carbon Price - What impact for renewables?

Victoria Kenrick

Victoria Kenrick of international sustainability recruitment consultancy Allen & York explores the impact the Australian Carbon Tax will have on the renewable energy industry.

The Clean Energy Bill in Australia, which came into effect in July, states that the carbon price will be paid by liable entities, such as companies that have facilities emitting 25,000 tonnes or more of carbon pollution per year. Liability will be determined by the Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System, an established measurement system for greenhouse gas pollution. It will not, however, effect agricultural emissions and legacy emissions from landfill facilities.

This scheme aims to provide a cap on carbon pollution within Australia, calling for organisations to pay a fixed carbon tax of A$23 per tonne of carbon pollution. The current Australian Federal Government says these caps will make a significant contribution to achieving the long term target of an 80% reduction from 2000 levels by 2050, removing more than 17bn tonnes of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere between now and 2050.

"The introduction of the carbon tax arrives at a time when investment in renewable energies in Australia is growing at a rapid rate”.

Professor Peter Newman, Director of Curtin University's Sustainability Policy Institute in Western Australia

The ultimate aim of the Carbon Tax is to drive investment and innovations in renewable energy technologies throughout Australia; and this certainly appears to be happening.

In terms of government support, the manufacturing sector will be able to benefit from the A$800 million Clean Technology Investment Programme, which will provide grants to manufacturers to support investments in energy-efficient capital equipment and low-pollution technologies.

In addition, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Low Carbon Australia are two financing arms set up to help businesses achieve this renewable energy target. In light of this, as recently as July 31st, it was announced that TrustPower & Siemens will build South Australia’s largest wind farm; named the Snowtown II wind farm

This will cement South Australia as the lead generator of renewable energy across the country, having already exceeded Australia’s 20% by 2020 renewable energy target, with 26% of South Australia’s electricity now generated by wind. South Australia has now set a target of 33% renewable energy by 2020. The new Snowtown II wind farm is set to help achieve this target.

The A$439 million wind farm development will have a capacity of 270MW and generate enough electricity to power approximately 180,000 South Australian homes. The renewable energy infrastructure growth is demonstrating the commitment that Australia has to a low carbon future.

Low cost future

A new report by the Australian Energy Technology Assessment (AETA) from the independent Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) estimates that solar photovoltaic and onshore wind could produce some of the lowest electricity generation costs in Australia by 2030. The Report states that solar thermal, wave, nuclear and geothermal technology costs are also forecast to fall and be cost competitive with some coal and gas based technologies by 2030 and will increase in development as a result of the Carbon Tax.

“The Australian Government is driving innovation and investment in these emerging technologies by putting a price on carbon and through the newly established $3.2 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation,” said Martin John Ferguson, Australian Labour Party Minister.

Moreover, a report by the Electricity Supply Association of Australia details how in recent years, coal’s dominant place in Australia is being replaced by renewable energy sources. This is set to increase in light of the recent Carbon Tax.

So ultimately, the carbon price scheme will drive innovation and keep the country internationally and sustainably competitive.

Victoria Kenrick is a Sustainability Professional at Allen & York, an international sustainability recruitment consultancy. For recruitment support and job opportunities within the Australian sustainability sector, contact Allen & York Australasia 

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Geothermal  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling  •  Wave and tidal energy  •  Wind power