Image Credit: WildEarth Guardians

The latest greenhouse gas inventory report released by ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate indicates the territory hit a plateau in progressing towards its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

While this initially may be cause for concern, a surge in renewable energy generation over the next few years is likely to ensure those targets are met.

The report released just before Christmas stated total greenhouse gas emissions for the ACT in the 2015/16 year stood at 4.04 million tonnes CO2-e, a slight increase (up 1.05%) from the previous year.

Emissions from the electricity sector continued to dominate the territory’s accounts, representing more than half of the capital’s greenhouse gas emissions in the last year. Transport fuels (27%) and natural gas use (9%) were next largest contributors to ACT emissions.

The profile of the ACT’s emissions inventory reflects the nature of the ACT economy. Being primarily based on the provision of services, there is minimal industrial or agricultural activity within the ACT, as such, electricity use and transport represent the two largest sources of demand for energy and thus, source of emissions.

However, while a small overall contributor, by growth in emissions from industrial activity drove the annual increase. The progressive replacement of refrigerant gases, some of which can be ozone depleting, as well as being disproportionately large contributors to global warming effects, were cited as the most significant source of industrial emissions in the ACT.

The ACT is widely recognised as legislating ambitious renewable energy and emissions reduction targets in the country, sustaining investment activity in a sector rocked by policy uncertainty at a Federal level. The ACT is on track to source an equivalent of 100 percent of its electricity demand by the end of the decade, a policy that received rare tri-partisan support at the ACT election held in October last year.

Speaking to the progress made towards the renewable energy target, Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury highlighted the projects currently underway.

“Canberra has some of the most ambitious renewable electricity targets in the world, equal to other progressive cities like London, Bonn and Seattle,” said Mr Rattenbury.

“It is exciting to see our renewable energy generation grow as new wind and solar projects come online, such as the Williamsdale Solar Farm which is nearing completion and the Mugga Lane Solar Farm which is expected to come online in early 2017.”

The ACT Government established a greenhouse gas emissions target of a 40 per cent reduction by 2020. A transition to 100 per cent renewable energy would make significant progress towards this target.

During 2006, the ACT surpassed the Federal Government’s 20 per cent renewable energy target, with the share of electricity supplied by renewables growing from negligible amounts in 2008-09 to 20.2 percent in 2015-16.

The ACT’s renewable energy policies are set to see the share of electricity supplied by renewables surge to almost 50 per cent in 2017-18 and reach 100 per cent by 2020-2021.

The ACT Government has signed power purchase agreements with an additional six large-scale wind farms, to come online between 2017 and 2019. The combined generation capacity of these wind farms amounts to 580.5 Megawatts and is likely to allow the ACT to source all its electricity from renewable sources.

The deep reductions in emissions achieved by these developments will place the 40 per cent emissions reduction target in reach. The ACT Government is also seeking to tackle transport emissions with the development of a light rail system, to the also powered by renewable energy as a means of tackling emissions from the transport sector.

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