Australia’s electricity sector needs to ‘decarbonise’ faster to meet emissions reduction targets

Australia’s electricity sector needs to make larger emissions reductions to meet the 2030 national emissions target and put the country on a trajectory to net zero emissions by 2050, according to a new report by ClimateWorks Australia.

ClimateWorks Australia’s Head of Research, Amandine Denis-Ryan, said new analysis showed Australia’s electricity sector needed to deliver a much greater cut than the 28 per cent reduction analysed for the Finkel Review.

The report Power Up: Australia’s electricity sector can and should do more to deliver on our climate commitments, was prepared to inform federal and state governments ahead of this Friday’s COAG Energy Ministers meeting, which will discuss the recommendations of the Finkel Review.

Ms Denis-Ryan said all sectors of the Australian economy needed to contribute to emissions reductions but decarbonising the electricity system was crucial to meeting our commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“Our research shows Australia’s electricity sector can cut emissions by 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, which would allow Australia to achieve its current 2030 target without additional action in other sectors. We find the electricity sector is well placed to deliver emissions reductions beyond a proportionate share,” she said.

“If the electricity sector only cuts emissions by 28 per cent by 2030, other sectors will have to deliver more emissions reductions. This would require new policy that brings forward all of the energy efficiency opportunities we have identified to 2030, plus 40 per cent of the technical potential to reduce emissions through fuel switching, electrification and action on non-energy emissions in the buildings, transport, industry, waste and land sectors.

“If the share of renewables increases from 40 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030 then this could enable the electricity sector to achieve double the abatement. And this means other more costly sectors elsewhere in the economy would be required to deliver nearly a third less abatement.

“To meet the more ambitious goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, Australia needs to achieve a 45 to 60 per cent reduction in emissions from the electricity sector by 2030.

“The report also recommends the federal government set an emissions reduction trajectory and additional policy for the electricity sector to ensure the smooth shift to reliable, low cost and low carbon energy.”

Ms Denis-Ryan said the report outlines key principles Australian governments need to consider in order to make effective decisions on climate change policy to achieve net zero emissions by midcentury.

“As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Australia will need to undertake deep decarbonisation across the economy to reach net zero emissions by or before 2050,” she said.

“Our research shows Australia can decarbonise its economy and meet its fair share of global emissions reductions while still growing the economy. However, the federal government needs to set long-term targets and develop a low emissions strategy to provide clear, long-term direction to aid investment and decision-making.

“Given that net zero emissions is the ultimate goal, we need to move faster and achieve greater emissions reduction by 2030 to achieve a decarbonised electricity system in the time we have left to stay within the carbon budget.

“Many of the technologies required for decarbonisation are available or under development. However further efforts in commercialisation, enhancement and integration will improve cost competitiveness and performance.”

Media Contact: Aileen Muldoon 0419 112 503
www.climateworksaustralia.org

*ClimateWorks Australia is an expert, independent adviser, committed to helping Australia transition to net zero emissions by 2050. It was co-founded through a partnership between The Myer Foundation and Monash University and works within the Monash Sustainable Development Institute.