Australia’s shell-shocked clean energy advocates are pinning their hopes on the nation’s renewables-friendly states and the price-cutting credentials of wind and solar after its so-called ‘Climate Election’ delivered an unexpected win for the ruling Coalition.
The dramatic victory for Prime Minister Scott Morrison – who once brandished a piece of coal in Parliament and declared ‘don’t be afraid of it’ – means a far less sympathetic outlook for renewables at federal level than the hugely ambitious targets proposed by the opposition Labor party, which was widely seen as the front-runner.
Climate and energy policy was centre-stage in the election campaign, fuelled by factors ranging from record summer temperatures to high power prices.
The country’s Clean Energy Council said before the poll that the differences between the two parties had never been starker. “This disparity is particularly evident in renewable energy, where all the parties have presented vastly different pathways and levels of ambition to deliver a clean energy future.”
The electorate’s delivery of a majority to Morrison’s Liberal-led Coalition – which had already failed to extend Australia’s federal renewable energy target (RET) beyond 2020 – means far murkier prospects for wind and solar in a national energy policy in which gas and even coal will have a big voice.
However, analysts said while the win could muddy the waters for the energy transition in Australia, powerful forces will continue to drive it forward.
One is the heavy backing for renewables in key states such as Victoria, where a Labor government was returned last year and which has committed to a 50% renewables target by 2050.
Another is the ability of wind and solar, with their ever-falling levelised cost-of-energy track records, to deliver one of the cornerstones of the Coalition’s own campaign promises – cheaper power bills.
The Australian Wind Alliance said after the elections result became clear: “The war on wind and renewable energy must end for Australia to genuinely tackle our emissions problem. Wind farm construction has delivered a jobs and investment boost of $5bn to regional Australia in the last two decades.”