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The Conservation Council welcomed the opportunity to comment on the ACT Sustainable Energy Policy 2020-2025.

The Conservation Council supports the strong stand the ACT Government has taken over the past ten years to address energy in the context of rising energy prices and an ongoing imperative to respond to the climate change crisis that will have long standing ramifications locally, nationally and globally. The ACT has demonstrated leadership through the implementation of the 100% renewable electricity target by 2020, ensuring the ACT’s electricity consumption is completely offset by investment in renewable energy generation that feeds into the National Electricity grid. This reverse auction policy has also helped to secure more stable electricity prices for ACT consumers over the next 20 years. The ACT has also implemented retailer energy efficiency legislation that has driven energy efficiency outcomes since 2013. 

The Conservation Council supports the intention of Government to reset policy direction on energy, and to approach this with a five year strategy. This approach will allow the ACT response to the rapidly changing energy landscape to be flexible, and responsive to new technologies and changes in costs. The Energy Policy plays an important role in delivering on the recently released ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25, and the legislated target of zero net emissions by 2045. The Council’s view is that the Energy Policy must continue to be consistent with the objectives identified in the Climate Change Strategy.

The ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-2025 identifies that gas is responsible for approximately 21% of the ACT’s emissions now that the 100% renewable electricity target is being met. While significantly less than the transport sector at around 60%, gas is the second largest source of emissions, and a sector that is technically relatively easily replaced through a shift to efficient electric appliances. ‘Natural gas’ is methane, a potent and fast-acting greenhouse gas that leaks into the atmosphere during extraction and distribution, as well as producing CO2 emissions when burnt.

The Conservation Council agrees that gas needs to be phased out in order for the ACT to reach a target of zero emissions. However, given the relative ease of using electrical alternatives for space heating, cooking and hot water, we believe that the target of 2045 to phase out gas is too slow, and misses the opportunity of achieving early and substantive emissions reductions. Gas appliances have a lifespan of around 15 years and economic modelling undertaken by the ACT Government in the preparation of the Climate Change Strategy provided a scenario of bringing forward the business as usual lifespan by 5 years. In a submission to Government in 2018, the Conservation Council and other environment groups proposed that gas be rapidly phased out by 2028 (ref). The ACT Government has not accepted this recommendation, however the Conservation Council is of the view that a ten year timeline to phase out gas is still viable and should be pursued. Importantly, the ACT Government must urgently set a clear timetable for the phase out to occur so as to urgently prevent the new installation of gas infrastructure and discourage the purchase of gas appliances.

Read our full submission Energy Policy Submission 2020-2025.