National renewable energy policy needed as coal-fired plants bow out

Despite Scott Morrison’s Coalition Government’s convincing victory at the ballot box this month, it still needs to address the issue of a national renewable energy policy.

That’s the verdict of deputy director of the SA Centre for Economic Studies at the University of Adelaide, Steve Whetton.

Whetton told Adelaide’s InDaily that South Australian businesses face even higher power prices in the absence of a clear federal policy on renewable energy. Lower power prices depend on renewables nationally as ageing coal plants retire.

No national renewable energy policy as bad as bad policy

“It’s fairly important for the government to announce firm policies quite soon because uncertainty about policy has almost as bad an impact as bad policy,” Whetton said.

national renewable energy policy

Australia needs a national renewable energy policy to lower power prices through large-scale solar and wind plants.

Because renewable energy is cheaper to produce than power from coal or gas. Denying its importance is therefore to encourage higher prices.

Whetton said renewable energy cost $60 per megawatt hour, while gas costs between $80 and $120.

“A grid with 50 per cent renewable power will certainly have lower power prices than one with the current generation mix.”

Renewable energy plants cheapest to build

Last year, the CSIRO’s inaugural GenCost report found solar and wind energy technologies to be lowest cost. The report was funded by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The report compared the 2018 capital costs of generation technologies, with large-scale solar coming in at around $2,000 per kW. This is roughly a quarter of the cost of coal plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

This point is key to the debate about whether renewable electricity is cheaper than electricity from coal. Although coal-fired plants currently produce cheaper electricity than renewables, that’s without considering the cost of building a new coal plant.

Australia’s coal-fired power plants are ageing and will retire over the next decade or two. Building new ones is expensive, putting aside the impact they have on health and the environment. A national renewable energy policy will help guide us on the correct path.

Renewables: better for health, environment and wallet

Renewable energy generators, once built, run on fuel provided and renewed by nature. As better ways to store renewable energy become available, it will play an increasing role in our national energy mix.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Australians can witness for themselves the savings from solar energy. In April this year, the official count was 2,105,677 rooftop solar installations across the nation.

It seems that whatever happens in federal politics and the lack of a national renewable energy policy, solar power installations are bringing renewable energy into the home.