Delivering a suite of policies that keeps the lights on without destroying the planet is one of the great challenges of our age.
It’s a complex problem that demands bipartisan support from everyone from the Prime Minister to the people sitting in the pub. And it’s a problem that can only be fixed with certainty, both in terms of policy and supply.
Last week, after a decade of policy uncertainty, we got the first sign that energy policy would no longer be treated like a political football.
Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel released his ‘energy blueprint’, a 200-page document which investigates Australia’s energy policy trilemma: how to place downward pressure on energy prices, ensure security of supply while also transitioning our nation to a low-emissions future.
The Finkel Review couldn’t come a moment sooner. The Australian Government made a commitment to the Paris Agreement along with 194 other countries in 2016, and that means doing our bit to limit global warming to well below 2˚C. At the same time, blackouts and sky-rocketing energy prices have focused our attention on national energy policy.
As Dr Finkel says: “our electricity system is entering an era where it must deal with changing priorities and evolving technologies. If the world around us is changing, we have to change with it. More of the same is not an option.”
Among the many recommendations, the Finkel Review has found a Clean Energy Target (CET) is the most effective way to reduce emissions while supporting energy security and reliability.
Much like the existing Renewable Energy Target, the proposed CET would provide incentives for new low-emissions energy generation. But the CET would be technology agnostic, encouraging the lowest cost eligible projects. And importantly for consumers, a CET would deliver better price outcomes than alternative options, or business as usual where the current lack of certainty is preventing investment in low-emissions technology.
The Finkel Review reinforces the danger for all from business as usual. The ‘do nothing’ approach will continue to cost us, and the environment. And that’s why it’s important that governments, business and consumers get behind the Finkel Review. This is consistent with the findings of ASBEC’s Low Carbon, High Performance report, which reveals that just five years of delay reducing emissions in our buildings could lead to $24 billion in wasted energy costs.
While the devil is undoubtedly in the detail, industry makes investments based on certainty. We need politicians to deliver on policies that last longer than the current political cycle.
This is an unmissable opportunity to establish policies that deliver lower prices, a secure energy market and a sustainable and resilient future for current and future generations. We cannot afford to waste it.