The climate wars between the major political parties have cost us a host of lost business and employment opportunities, even a global leadership role, and yet we drift on without an energy policy that might provide some relief to rising power costs and some strategy to meet our commitments to reduce emissions.
The government’s most recent policy, the National Electricity Guarantee (NEG), is the fourth most effective response, only being proposed after an emissions trading scheme, an emissions intensity scheme and Finkel’s clean energy target were sequentially rejected.
In this sense, the guarantee is the last, and only, game in town, but it is still likely to be exhaustively debated, mostly for not moving fast or far enough, with concern about the longer-term future of the renewables sector.
Even if it achieves all that it promises in terms of emissions reductions in the power sector, this will still see us fall short of our Paris targets for the whole economy, which were only about half what the Climate Change Authority said would be required for us to achieve, at worst, net zero emissions by 2050.
Apart from more realistic targets, there are two other significant imperatives when it comes to energy policy. First, emission reductions in the power sector are more cost effective than other alternatives, so we should be aiming to do more in the power sector.
Second, the government desperately needs to enunciate, and adopt policies to achieve, an “overarching” emissions reduction strategy, that encompasses transport, agriculture, mining and other industries and activities, as well as power. The latter only accounts for about 30 per cent of our total emissions.
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