“Together we can end the climate wars. Together we can take advantage of the opportunity for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower.”
So said Australia’s new prime minister Anthony Albanese in his victory speech over the weekend, after the Labor party saw off the Liberal-National Coalition government – which had been in power for almost a decade – in the recent federal election.
For context, perhaps the clearest example of the climate clash between both parties, and where the Coalition stood on climate change, was in 2017 when the then-treasurer – the now defeated PM Scott Morrison – waved a lump of coal in parliament, urging Labor not to be afraid of it.
Largely downplaying the impact of fossil fuels and the urgency of meeting net-zero carbon emission targets has been a stance that has placed Australia far behind other developed countries in the global effort to tackle climate change. Ultimately, it also proved detrimental for the Coalition in an election where climate change appears to have played a key role in securing votes.
And for the Australian renewables sector? It seems change can’t come soon enough.
As recently as April, the Clean Energy Council’s latest Clean Energy Australia report revealed the level of investment in new large-scale renewable energy projects in the country fell by more than 17 percent last year, with investors citing ongoing policy uncertainty and problems connecting renewable energy projects to the grid as the main reasons behind the significant drop in the number of projects in the pipeline.
In addition, a recent Clean Energy Investor Group survey of its members found investors continued to perceive major risks in the Australian market compared with other OECD markets. Speaking to Infrastructure Investor in April, CEIG chief executive Simon Corbell said, “… key risks around congestion and congestion management as well as connection risk and broader policy uncertainty remain key factors in keeping investor sentiment subdued”.
With Labor already stating its commitment to upgrading the electricity grid and setting a renewable energy target of 80 percent of the country’s electricity mix by 2030 – renewable energy currently makes up 32.5 percent of Australia’s electricity generation – it seems things are finally looking up for the sector. And, according to David Scaysbrook, co-founder of Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, it’s hoped the changing of the guard and expected transformation in policy will usher in the certainty investors have been looking for and place the Australian renewables market firmly on the map.
“As someone focused on the green economy, this is the most hopeful that we have been in a decade in being able to increase the significance of Australia as a market for future investment,” Scaysbrook told a media briefing on Tuesday.
“What we’ve been struggling with for so long here in Australia, and why we have been so despondent, is the lack of the details in the rules and regulations to create the right conditions for long term investment for institutional capital.”
While it remains to be seen how successful Albanese’s government will be in fulfilling its clean energy commitments and creating much-needed investment certainty for the sector, its willingness to address the urgency of the climate crisis and accelerate the country’s energy transition can only help.