Comment

ACT government leads the way on renewable energy

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The ACT government's commendable commitment to renewable energy has the potential to deliver for this community on a number of levels.

The first, and most obvious, is that Canberrans have shifted further away from dependence on fossil fuel generated electricity than almost any other mainland state or territory.

The second is that while the ACT government's 2015 commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025 was initially mocked in some circles, the aspirational nature of that goal is now paying dividends.

The territory is expected to reach 60 per cent of power generation from renewables by the end of next year and 90 per cent by 2020. Both of these figures are impressive given the federal government's much more modest target of 23.5 per cent from renewables by the end of the decade.

That Canberra's commitment to this path occurred at the same time the federal government was openly hostile to investment in renewables and after former treasurer Joe Hockey said wind farms were a blight on the landscape makes it even more remarkable.

The announcement that, as a result of the "reverse auction" process initiated by the territory, Sapphire has been awarded a contract to build a local 100 megawatt hour windfarm​ for completion by April 2018, is the latest in a number of positive steps.

About $34 million will be spent developing the asset and moving Sapphire's operations management centre to the ACT.

The ACT project is to be developed by CWP Renewables, which now becomes the third wind power developer and asset manager to base its operations in the territory.

This brings us to the third benefit; the opportunity to create a renewable energy industry hub in Canberra.

We already have many smart people working in this field in local universities, at the CSIRO and in private industry.

Surely we must be starting to approach the "critical mass" of people, enthusiasm and investment necessary to show the rest of Australia what the future looks like.

It really just seems to be a matter of putting the pieces together.

It will be very surprising if, in what is shaping up to be a fiercely contested election year, the Barr government neglects the opportunity to make some strong and positive announcements about what has already been achieved and the further benefits that are expected to come.

With the Royalla 20 megawatt solar power plant in operation since September 2014 and the 13 megawatt Mugga Lane solar park expected to come on line this year, considerable expertise is already available on the solar power front as well.

At a consumer level, ongoing programs to install rooftop solar panels, now with the additional flexibility that battery storage systems can provide, have proved very popular.

These will ultimately eliminate the need for new power stations and may, over time, make it possible for existing fossil fuel facilities to be decommissioned.

It is remarkable that these achievements have been delivered while, at the same time, local power consumers continue to enjoyed the lowest electricity prices in the nation.