Australian Capital Sets Renewable Energy Goals

All of Canberra’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020. (Flickr)

All of Canberra’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020. (Flickr)

The Australian capital city Canberra hurtles towards transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy to source its energy needs. A new report by the Australian Institute (TAI)’s Climate and Energy Program finds the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) energy supply is on track to be 100 percent renewable by January 1, 2020 or earlier. Renewable energy sources include geothermal, solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric forms.

The conversion hinges on an October 1 deadline with South Australia’s Hornsdale Wind Farm to bring 35 more wind turbines into the grid. In total, the ACT’s Environment Directorate looks to make use of 192 wind turbines and over 159,000 solar panels to sustain the energy needs of its nearly 400,000 inhabitants. 

Renewable energy is a largely local affair: several of Australia’s largest solar and wind farms are situated within a 30-minute drive to the capital city, including the 83,000-panel Royalla solar farm, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Because they are climate-based, wind and solar energy present challenges with dependability and consistency in the electrical grid. To stabilize the network, the ACT will also obtain large batteries capable of powering thousands of homes at a time. Battery implementation permits storage of excess energy generated by renewable sources and ensures a much more stable electrical network.

Canberra began its transition to renewable sources in 2013 with the development of three solar farms with a collective capacity to power roughly 10,000 homes. Two years later, the ACT government pledged to go 100-percent renewable by 2025, a goal that would be amended in 2016 to an ambitious earlier deadline of 2020, Business Insider reports.

Just a decade ago, Canberra derived 90 percent of its electricity supply from coal-based sources, according to Axios. According to the Guardian, added together, Australia is the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil carbon in the world, after only Saudi Arabia and Russia. 

The World Economic Forum identified Australia as the fourth-largest coal producer in the world. Canberra’s shift to strictly renewable energy sourcing for the ACT’s electrical grid, then, substantially differs from national policies.

PV Magazine reports that the Australian capital joins seven jurisdictions in Germany, Spain, and Austria in the tally of 100-percent renewable-dependent regions with populations over 100,000. 

The movement to only source renewable-energy has been dramatic in recent years. The TAI report identifies over a hundred regions globally that maintain 100-percent renewable targets, including 52 countries and 42 cities. Skåne, Sweden (pop. 1.3 million), Kasese, Uganda (pop. 775,000), Oslo, Norway (pop. 600,000), and Flevoland, the Netherlands (pop. 400,000) are among the municipalities that maintain the most ambitious goals as they look to join Canberra in 2020 as fossil-fuel free.