Australia closes oldest coal plant, pivots to renewables

These closures will test whether renewables are ready to fill the gap, climate finance expert Tim Buckley told AFP.

“If everything lines up it’s fine. The momentum is good, and the policy heads in the right direction.”

Drenched in sunshine and blessed with sparsely-populated windswept coasts, Australia has the natural ingredients to be a renewable energy superpower, Buckley said.

“Every bloody week there’s a new battery announced, or a new wind farm, or other major projects proceeding,” he added.

The tricky part, he said, would be figuring out how to store this energy and pump it across the vast distances between Australian towns and cities.

“We are talking about projects that haven’t been attempted in Australia for decades, where labour shortages are real and engineering problems are to be expected.

“The chance of everything going smoothly between now and 2030 is close to zero.”

Even if it does go smoothly Australia still faces enormous challenges in meeting its target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

‘Terrible laggard’

Over the past decade an ideological brawl dubbed the “climate wars” has dominated Australian politics, repeatedly undermining attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

Researchers in 2020 found that eight per cent of Australians were in climate change denial, more than double the global average.

Transport makes up 19 per cent of Australia’s emissions but the country is one of the only advanced economies without fuel efficiency standards, something the government has vowed to rectify soon.

And although Australia is planning to clean up its domestic energy market, the economy is still fuelled by exports of coal and gas.

Dozens of new coal mines, oil fields and gas projects are in government planning pipelines.

“In terms of still developing gas and coal mines for export, we are a terrible laggard,” Diesendorf said. “It’s a real contradiction.” AFP

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