The ACT will face difficult choices if it wants to pursue a further greenhouse gas emission target beyond 2020, including the need to electrify the entire natural gas network and potentially replace all gas-powered devices and vehicles, a sustainable futures conference was told on Friday.
The inaugural Canberra Urban Regional Futures conference held at the University of Canberra hosted a number of leading experts in sustainable development, tackling issues from integrated transport to how best the region could adapt to a changing climate.
Environment Minister Simon Corbell restated the ACT Government's legislated target of having 90 per cent of the ACT's energy needs coming from renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass and other technologies by the year 2020.
But Jon Sibley from the ACT Government's energy policy area said the focus for the government was now moving to what the goals should be beyond that current target.
"What we see working with the climate change team, we see the really big challenge for us is moving beyond 2020. For example, if we want to have a zero emission transport fleet, we're going to have to electrify our entire fleet, so it's those kinds of things that will require solutions that we don't yet have fully available to us," Mr Sibley said.
Liz Veitch from the South East Region of Renewable Energy Excellence said there was a strong move to create a cluster of renewable energy industries in the Canberra and South East NSW region. The ACT's policies and rewnewables target was making it an island of hope in an otherwise bleak national landscape for the sector.
She said the current attempts by the federal government to wind back the national renewable energy target was creating uncertainty that was harming long-term investment by industry. The ACT was therefore well-placed to benefit from industries looking for certainty for their rewnewable energy projects.
"The ACT's support for a 90 per cent renewable energy target is driving industry, at a time when the rest of the country is at a standstill due to uncertainty (over possible changes to the national renewable energy target)," Ms Veitch said.
"The region surrounding the ACT has a wealth of natural resources and is on the grid between Sydney and Melbourne, so is therefore well placed to feed into it. If you look at what's currently in the region, in terms of renewable generation and infrastructure, and what's proposed, it's quite a lot, which translates to a lot of business generated in this region, as well as a lot of jobs." she said.
Mr Sibley said continual drops in the cost of technology such as solar and wind power generation, and China increasing production of cheap, high quality batteries, were making the business case for renewables increasingly cost effective, and those efficiencies would only continue as technology improved.