Connecting countries to climate technology solutions
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Official Name:
Commonwealth of Australia

National Designated Entity

Type of organisation:
Ms. Margie Eddington
Assistant Director, Climate Change Adaptation, Human Rights and Security Section
+61 2 6261 3328

Energy profile

Australia (2012)

Energy profile
Energy profile
Extent of network

The vast majority of the population of Australia has access to electricity, despite the very low population density of the country. The national transmission grid comprises of 27,640 km of transmission lines and cables, with 10,300 km of these operating at above 330 kV. There are two separate grids in the country, the eastern grid operating under the National Electricity Market (NEM), and the South-West Interconnected Supply Area, serving Western Australia. The vast majority of the transmission infrastructure is located around the major load centres, with no connection between Western and Southern Australia. In addition, Tasmania is connected to the Victorian grid through an unregulated interconnection under the NEM.The NEM is connected by seven major transmission interconnectors. These interconnectors link the electricity networks in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The NEM electricity transmission and distribution networks consist of around 790 700 km of overhead transmission and distribution lines and around 113 700 km of underground cables.

Renewable energy potential

As of 2007, Australia generated 5.6 billion kWh of electricity from renewable sources. Under the previous Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), which targeted 9.5 billion kWh of the total electricity generation from renewable sources, solar hot water, wind energy and solar electricity experienced the greatest growth. Currently, the target is set at 45,000 GWh of new renewable electricity generation by 2020 under the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which began on 1 January 2010.Australia’s renewable energy currently accounts for less than 5% or 244 PJ of total energy consumption. A recent decline is mainly due to low biomass production, which was affected by its low energy content and high handling and processing costs. Solar energyThe majority of Australian territory receives a high level of direct solar radiation, sufficient to make it one of the world's best prospects for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. Average insolations across the Australian land mass are 5.0-7.5 kWh/m2/day, rising to as much as 8.5 kWh/m2/day in some Northern areas. Current utilisation of the technology is low, with 40 MW of linear solar reflectors installed in New South Wales. However, many new solar projects are planned for the country, particular concentrating on CSP projects.Wind energyAssessments made in 2008 state that the potential capacity for on-shore wind-generated power in Australia is 91,760 MW, capable of producing 241 TWh/year of electricity, at a capacity factor of 30%. The majority of this potential is concentrated in Western and Southern Australia, as the coastline lies in the “roaring forties” region of high coastal wind strengths, with hundreds of sites having average wind speeds of 8-9 m/s at 50m. Current installed capacity, as of December 2009, is 1,877 MW, with South Australia possessing the majority of capacity. Wind power is expected to grow from 1 TWh to 4 TWh over the same period.Biomass energyThe potential for biomass energy production from wood wastes and bagasse has been identified, although concerns are high amongst the population and government as to the “food vs. fuel” debate, due to the recent food price crisis. There are currently three commercial producers of fuel ethanol in the country, all on the eastern coast. Current legislation imposes a 10% cap on ethanol blend for fuels, and E10 (90% unleaded petrol, 10% ethanol) is commonly available around major sources of ethanol production, for example in Queensland.HydropowerHydro-electric resources are largely used for electricity generation, and account for about 95% of the total share of renewable electricity generated, although hydropower generation has been below average for the past few years due to continuing drought. Despite the strong contribution made by the resource, it is projected to grow by roughly 0.6% per year, reaching about 18 TWh by 2019–2020.Ocean energyForays are being made into the establishment of wave power generation in the country, including a 50MW trial plant at Douglas Point in South Australia.Geothermal energyIn Australia, geothermal resources are primarily found in South Australia and Tasmania and along the southern Victorian coastline. Despite vast resource potential, only 80 kW at one geothermal station is currently on line. This small plant built in the early 1990s produces one-third of the power for the town of Birdsville, Queensland. In 2009, it was reported that the government of Queensland will invest up to AU$ 4.3 million to upgrade the station.

Energy framework

Australia’s energy policy framework changed significantly in 2009, through amendments to existing policy and legislation. Developments included the Review of the Australian taxation system; updating the Energy White Paper 2004; the release of the National Energy Security Assessment; the establishment of the Australian Energy Market Operator; the release of the National Strategy for Energy Efficiency; the passing of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009 to expand the renewable energy target; and the proposal for an emissions trading scheme.The Australian government is committed to a long-term goal of reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions to 60% below the 2000 level by 2050. The climate change policy is built on three pillars:reducing Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases,adapting to unavoidable climate change,helping to shape a global solution.The Renewable Energy Target (RET) began on 1 January 2010, and aims for at least 20% (or around 60,000 GWh) of electricity supply to be provided by renewable energy sources by 2020. This includes the new target of 45,000 GWh of new renewable electricity generation, on top of 15,000 GWh of existing renewable electricity generation, compared with 95,000 GWh by 2010 under the previous Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET). The RET also brings existing state-based targets, such as the Victorian Renewable Energy Target and the proposed New South Wales Renewable Energy Target, into a single Australia-wide scheme. The RET is scheduled to end in 2030, when the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is expected to be the primary driver of investment in renewable energy, replacing the RET.In June 2010, legislation was passed to separate the RET scheme into two parts from 1 January 2011: the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) and the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET).In 2000, Australia introduced a voluntary measure for fossil fuel electricity generators to reduce the greenhouse intensity of energy supply. The Generator Efficiency Standards apply to new projects and existing electricity generators above a minimum threshold (30 MW), whether grid-connected, off-grid or self-generators. Since 2004 the best-practice efficiency guidelines have defined for new plants; and the measure is implemented through legally binding, five-year Deeds of Agreement between the Australian government and participating businesses.The Energy Efficiency Opportunities program (EEO) came into force in 2006, under which all large energy-using businesses – more than 139 GWh / year (12 Mtoe / year) – are required to undertake an energy audit every five years and to report publicly on cost-effective energy savings opportunities. The EEO covers approximately 240 businesses across all sectors (mid-2010 figures) accounting for more than 60% of total business energy use.The Australian Ministerial Council on Energy (MCE) endorsed the National Framework for Energy Efficiency (NFEE) in 2004, following on the 2002 Energy South Australia study, and approved the implementation of a number of energy efficiency packages. Stage 1, which came to a close in June 2008, included nine policy packages. Stage 2 started in July 2008, with five new energy efficiency measures: expanding and enhancing the Minimum Energy Performance Standards program for electrical appliances and gas appliances; developing a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) high efficiency systems strategy; phasing-out of incandescent lighting in the households sector; providing government leadership to stimulate energy efficiency in buildings through green leases; and developing measures to improve the energy efficiency of water heaters.The National Strategy for Energy Efficiency (NSEE), released in 2009, incorporates and builds on measures in the NFEE. It is a coordinated, comprehensive 10-year strategy for energy efficiency improvements for households and businesses. Through this collaborative approach, the NSEE delivers a range of policy measures, with a focus on increasing energy efficiency. The MCE is responsible for the delivery of several important measures in the NSEE that are delivered through the NFEE.The National Energy efficiency Initiative – Smart Grid, Smart City was implemented by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism in 2009. It will demonstrate Australia's first fully integrated, commercial scale smart grid. Smart grids combine advanced communication, sensing and metering infrastructure with existing energy networks. This enables a combination of applications that can deliver a more efficient, robust and consumer-friendly electricity network.In July 2009, the New South Wales government implemented an energy saving obligation for electricity retailers and other parties who buy or sell electricity (Energy Savings Scheme, ESS). Total energy savings requirements are fixed for each year of the scheme, as a given percentage of the electricity sales. The target for the first year was set at 0.4% of total electricity sales, and will gradually increase to 4% in 2014.In 2009, Australia launched a Solar Flagships program aimed at supporting large-scale solar power generation of up to 1,000 MW.In 2010, the Energy Efficiency Program was established within the framework of the Australian Carbon Trust to promote take-up of energy efficient technologies and practices in the business sector. It provides innovative finance solutions and expert advice to help businesses achieve energy efficiency improvements and cost-effective carbon emission reductions. Five initial projects were announced in November 2010, an investment totaling 23.7 million Australian dollars over the next three years.The Minimum Energy Performance Standards program (MEPS) aims to increase the energy efficiency of products used in manufacturing sectors (three-phase electric motors, etc.).The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research provides Clean Business Australia and the Green Car Innovation Fund to support businesses.Clean Energy Act 2011In November 2011, the Australian parliament passed the Clean Energy Act 2011, which establishes the structure of and process for introducing an economy-wide carbon price on 1 July 2012, and the transition to an emissions trading mechanism on 1 July 2015.The Act covers the following:liable entities’ obligations to surrender emissions units corresponding to their emissionslimits on the number of emissions units that will be issuedthe nature of carbon unitsthe allocation of carbon units, including by auction and the issue of free unitsmechanisms to contain costs, including the fixed charge period and price floors and ceilingslinks to other emissions trading schemesassistance for emissions-intensive trade-exposed activities and coal-fired electricity generatorsmonitoring and enforcement.The Clean Energy Future package incorporates the carbon pricing mechanism; along with a commitment to renewable energy, energy efficiency and action in the land sector.

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