RePower Alice Springs is an independent volunteer-run community group, working on behalf of the people of Alice Springs. Our central aim is to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy for the Alice Springs electricity network by 2030 through advocacy, community engagement and development of community solar projects. RePower sees community solar as making a major important contribution to the 100 per cent renewable energy target for Alice Springs.
The following is our response to the questions in the discussion paper:
1. What (if any) greenhouse gas emissions target should the NT adopt?
Net zero emissions by 2025, and a carbon sink thereafter, aiming for negative emissions equivalent to our current emissions of 16MtCO2e by 2050. This is consistent with RePower’s mission of 100% solar power for Alice Springs by 2030 and the urgency of strong action demanded by the latest IPCC report of 8 October 2018. Target must be in legislation, and include interim and sector-specific targets to track and enforce progress.
2. What should businesses and governments be doing to reduce emissions?
Recommendation 1 of last year’s Roadmap to Renewables report to the NT Government said: “To ensure long-term benefits for all Territorians, the NT Government should include renewable energy as a central pillar of economic policy, maximising benefits of forthcoming disruptive change in the electricity sector caused by the global transition to competitively priced renewable energy.” The Northern Territory Government’s response was to support this. This support must now be translated into action and investment.
The NT Government should invest in and actively encourage solar energy through direct investment, subsidies and other mechanisms., Electric vehicles can contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions if their energy source is not fossil fuel dependent; and act as batteries in storing solar energy for late use. However the impacts of private vehicles in traffic congestion, particulate pollution and sedentary lifestyles are not overcome through a simple change to electric vehicles for private use.
NT Government investment in solar energy can be complemented by strategies that increase the cost of emissions; and exerting influence on the Commonwealth government taxation system.
Major companies, including Woodside, BHP and Rio Tinto are all calling for a carbon price. Much of the community wants it, industry now wants it, the environment must have it and governments are lagging behind. The NT Government should lead, and not limit this lead to research. Operating examples of big solar are now in abundance interstate and internationally, with big economic development and job opportunities. The NT government should adapt these opportunities for the local situation. The town of Port Augusta is a suitable model for Alice Springs, with similar climate although half the population and is now an energy exporter. Increasing investment in solar power and batteries in Government buildings, with high energy efficiency requirements will lead in the medium term to government savings.
The NT Government should actively support NT Airports proposal to increase its investment in solar in Alice Springs (and Darwin). It has the money, is developing the plans and wants more government engagement and support.
The NT Government should implement the ‘Community Renewable Energy Participation Program’ flagged in the NT Electricity Market Reform and Renewable Energy Implementation Plan 2018-19.
3. How else can we apply Aboriginal knowledge and practices to help us to mitigate and adapt to climate change?
NT Government should identify and help develop recognised methodologies for strategic savannah burning by Aboriginal people for carbon credits in Central Australia, which will provide significant social and environmental benefits beyond carbon storage. There are big opportunities here for Central Australian Aboriginal people, their land and our environment.
4. What potential opportunities can you see emerging from climate change in the Territory?
A renewables economy with many future-oriented jobs plus innovations to export. There is an urgent need to move away from the current energy and gas extraction industries which are environmentally damaging, potentially stranded assets with boom and bust, ultimately redundant jobs.
While there is evidence of people leaving NT because of increasing heat, there are opportunities for research in heat mitigation. NT has no large cities which are particularly vulnerable to heat island effect. Water supplies are relatively secure, so there are opportunities for research and development in heat mitigation, air-conditioner efficiency, and agriculture and food production in changing climate conditions. Darwin has led the way in cyclone standards for buildings, so there is experience in developing building codes that can tolerate extreme weather events.
5. How can the fossil fuel industry further reduce emissions from energy production?
The NT government must assist fossil fuel industries modernise, and use their expertise in renewable energy. This can be done through a permanent ban on fracking, in line with the science-based Paris Agreement target, fossil fuels must be phased out by 2050. Any new extraction of fossil fuels – including natural gas – is incompatible with reducing climate risk and limiting warming to the 1.5 degrees now required. For the NT Government to now support this extraction, including fracking, is environmentally and ultimately economically irresponsible.
6. What type of regulations do you think would assist industry in being accountable for their impact on climate change?
A carbon tax or price would assist industry accountability for impacts on climate change. This could achieve widespread community support through appropriate messaging and community activism. Major resource industry players, including Australia’s biggest oil and gas producer Woodside, are now calling for a carbon price for investment certainty, as they recognised the importance of carbon pricing for environmental protection. To fail to introduce a tax/price quickly is to not only let the environment and community down but also industry and the market. Ultimately, circumstances will demand a price on carbon, so delaying this investment has high costs and risks.
To emphasise this, the Corporate Leaders Group, including Unilever, Coca Cola and the Lloyds Banking Group has called for governments to adopt a net zero emissions target by 2050. The NT Government must heed this call.
All forms of fossil fuel subsidies should be identified and eliminated immediately.
7. What actions are you willing to take to mitigate or reduce the impact of climate change?
RePower already works tirelessly and voluntarily in many ways consistent with its mission to achieve 100% solar power for Alice Springs by 2030 by:
• Building community capacity
• Community power projects and partnerships
with considerable impact and traction considering its meagre resources.
Its mission and advocacy reflect the wishes of many Alice Springs residents. Three-quarters of the respondents in RePower’s 2017 survey wanted 70-100 per cent solar power for Alice Springs by 2030. Over 80 per cent of the 542 respondents in RePower’s 2018 survey said they are willing to invest in an Alice Springs solar farm. A number of respondents would be willing to invest over $100000; while the most common range was $1000 to $5000.
Personally, members of Repower Alice Springs are highly committed to reducing their own carbon emissions through choices in transport, entertainment, consumption, recreation and family size.
8. What support do you need to help you to mitigate or adapt to climate change?
NT Government buy-in, literally and otherwise, is needed to transition the NT faster, to fully renewable power and a renewables economy. While the Alice Springs community is willing to put its money where its concerns are, it expects governments to take leadership in demonstrating the possibilities of renewable energy, and mitigating and adapting to climate change.
In summary, RePower Alice Springs, formed in response to catastrophic government failure to respond to the urgent need to invest in renewable energy, urges NT government to recognise that climate change is a global emergency, requiring leadership and action on many fronts.
• Ambitious emissions reductions
• Consideration of climate change mitigation and adaptation in development of every policy
• Collaboration with industry and the community particularly in developing renewable energy,
• Recognition of the opportunities for Aboriginal leadership,
• Support for individual action.
We look forward to close collaboration following this inquiry.