ACT News

ACT pushes to expand its renewable energy industry

The ACT could become Australia's Silicon Valley of renewable energy development and a test site for new technology as it moves towards reaching its 90 per cent renewables target by 2020.

At the centrepiece of a new strategy to expand the renewable energy industry in the ACT is a $1.2 million Renewable Energy Innovation Fund collected from private companies as part of the government's 200 megawatt wind auction.

South East Region for Renewable Energy Excellence (SERREE) director Liz Veitch, Environment Minister Simon Corbell, ...
South East Region for Renewable Energy Excellence (SERREE) director Liz Veitch, Environment Minister Simon Corbell, Windlab chief executive officer Roger Price, and the ANU's Energy Change Institute director Professor Ken Baldwin at the launch of a new strategy to expand the renewable energy industry in the ACT. Photo: Stuart Hay - ANU Photography

The funds will support research and product development in renewable energy technology for ACT-based start-ups, as part of a new collaborative approach with academia, the private sector and the government.

Environment Minister Simon Corbell admitted the renewables' industry currently made only a "modest contribution" to the ACT's economy, but at a launch of the strategy he said there was enormous potential for growth as the industry expands in the next 12 months with more feed-in tariff auctions, solar and wind projects.

"In the last two years the number of jobs based on renewable energy [in the ACT] grew by over 400 per cent," he said.

"Across the country we're seeing a massive slowdown in renewable energy investment and jobs and other jurisdictions have lost jobs in the renewable energy sector largely because of the uncertainty associated with the renewable energy target policy nationally."

Advertisement

As part of the strategy the ACT could become home to Australian-first test berths where companies can test new renewable energy technologies, connect them into the grid and "iron out any kinks and bugs in the system" before they are deployed on a commercial scale, Mr Corbell said.

Mr Corbell said Canberra had "world-leading" climate change and energy researchers and some of largest renewable energy projects in Australia which could be used to its economic advantage.

Already the collaborative approach has given rise to a new wind energy course produced by Canberra-based global wind energy company Windlab to be offered at the Australian National University next year.

The ANU's Energy Change Institute director Professor Ken Baldwin said the strategy recognised the university's expertise.

"[The course] will enable students who are part of the program we are running at the Energy Change Institute to be leaders in the future generations of renewable energy experts needed to in the development of the industry sector in this country," he said.

The strategy aims to establish more companies within the ACT sector and Windlab chief executive officer Roger Price said his Canberra-based company was an example of what the collaboration could produce.

The South East Region for Renewable Energy Excellence (SERREE), part of Regional Development Australia ACT, will bring together stakeholders of all levels from multinationals to small start-ups, all levels of government, researchers and community organisations through its industry cluster initiative, its director Liz Veitch said.

Already international giants Siemens, General Electric and Vestas have signed on to the strategy, Mr Corbell said.