Australia has the highest per-capita GHG emissions of any developed country with one third of its emissions coming from electricity generation. The region around Canberra is projected to get hotter in the years ahead, with more bushfires, heatwaves, droughts and storms. 60% of CO2 emissions generated in the ACT come from electricity. As a result, the ACT government has sent a target of 40% reduction of GHG emissions by 2020 (vs. 1990), the most ambitious of any regional government in Australia. The relatively small size of Canberra, limits the amount of land available for developing wind and solar infrastructure. The city is working hard to accommodate this challenge alongside community sensitivities about the development of wind or solar farms.
By June 2016, 233MW of new renewable energy generating capacity had begun or completed construction with a further 207MW to commence construction soon. To date, renewable energy share of the electricity supply has increased from 12% (2010/11) to 21% (2015/16) and is on target to reach 100% by 2019/20. This has helped reduce total emissions from 4,460 kilotonnes CO2e in 2010/11 to 3,934 kilotonnes CO2e in 2014/15.
The reverse auction programme has resulted in over US$310 million of local economic benefit including:
• Two new wind companies have been founded in Canberra;
• A third wind company has established its global operations centre in the ACT;
• A national renewable energy trades training course has been established at an ACT technical college along with a new university wind energy course.
• A local Asia-Pacific micro-grid export business has been established
• A local renewables business precinct has been opened.
Renewable energy jobs in the ACT have increased by more than 400% in the past five years. Local community support for the project extends to a local co-ownership arrangement used for the Coonooer Bridge wind farm, in Victoria, and strong engagement with local Aboriginal groups undertaken at the Hornsdale wind farm, in South Australia.
By making renewable energy support prices as low as the market will allow, the reverse auction process has delivered renewable energy supply at the lowest possible cost. The average wind feed-in tariff awarded by the auction process has been $US63.24 per megawatt-hour including the lowest publically known wind feed-in tariff price in Australia of $US56.62 per megawatt-hour. The programme is based on the most ambitious incremental renewable energy target in Australia: increasing local renewable energy supply from 12% in 2010/11 to 100% by 2019/20.
The project is expected to reduce the levels of air pollution resulting in public health benefits, specifically for the young and elderly. The auctions will show benefits for local businesses, stimulate research partnerships and develop the ATC as a tertiary education and trade skills hub.
The 233MW of new renewable energy capacity will result in 1,112,000 tonnes CO2e of emission reduction by 2020. The 440MW of solar and wind feed-in tariff entitlements auctioned to date will result in the generation of 1,602,000 megawatt-hours of clean and sustainable large-scale renewable electricity by 2020. This output will result in an emission reduction of 1,998,000 tonnes CO2e in 2020 (around -28% reduction from 1990). The balance will be provided by upcoming auctions, in order to reduce emissions to 40% by 2020. In the longer term, diversification of energy sources will reduce the vulnerability of Canberra’s energy supply.