CANBERRA, Australia — A decade ago, coal supplied 90% of this national capital region’s electricity. By next year, it will be 0%, and renewable energy will be 100%, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
Why it matters: It’s a rare example of a region traditionally dependent upon coal weaning itself off the fuel. The key lesson: Big pivots in energy systems are possible with stable government leadership, instead of windshield-wiper policies that voters from Australia to America have been accustomed to in recent years.
“We’ve had the same parties in power, that same leadership over a 10-year period. We’ve been able to steadily roll out policies and provide industry certainty.”— Shane Rattenbury, climate change and sustainability minister, Australian Capital Territory
The big picture: Despite its big environmental footprint, coal has traditionally been the world’s cheapest form of electricity. As concerns about air pollution and climate change grow, renewable energy is increasingly competing with coal, buoyed by government policies like the kind this region implemented.
- In many parts of the world, natural gas is emerging as the top form of power because it’s plentiful and burns cleaner than coal, but here in Australia that fuel is mostly exported.
Details: Australia’s economy is particularly dependent upon coal. This nation is the world’s largest coal exporter, and nearly 75% of its electricity is coal-fired.
- The country's capital region, known as the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), is barred by the nation's constitution from implementing a price on carbon dioxide emissions.
- Instead, it pursued changes to electricity-market policies to favor wind and solar over coal, such as reverse auctions where companies compete to offer low-cost renewable electricity.
- The region stands in contrast to Australia’s federal policy, which has been mostly absent.
Yes, but: The capital region faces limitations.
- The government’s electricity won’t be independently renewable energy. Most efforts to get 100% renewable energy aren’t due to the nature of electricity grids and variable wind and solar resources.
- Instead, it has procured renewable energy — mostly wind farms — from within its region but also across Australia to equal its power demand.