Who’s the greenest of us all? Wind farms, light rail and the ACT government

A solar wind farm under construction at Royalla.

When it comes to renewables, the ACT government clearly feels it has the wind, so to speak, in its sails. Buoyed by two successful solar auctions, Environment Minister Simon Corbell recently announced plans for wind farm auctions to take place. But dreams are expensive, and as ACT citizens will, either directly or indirectly, be paying the bills, some questioning of the vision seems in order.

Labor governments love targets, and the ACT’s target is that by 2020, 90 per cent of the energy consumed in the city will come from renewables. Production will be underwritten by a feed-in tariff of 18.6 cents per KWh. To meet the target, the total amount of installed capacity will need to be about 500 megawatts. (To get a rough idea of the magnitude of the task, a 50-hectare solar farm will generate about 20 megawatts. A 150-turbine wind farm, at two megawatts per turbine – and that is a very big turbine – adds up to 300 megawatts).

If any jurisdiction in Australia could feasibly undertake this project, it is probably the ACT. We are a city-state, so the legislative powers of a state government can be brought to bear on a relatively small population. The consumers of the power (who will also pay the support tariff) are mostly relatively well-off.

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by Professor Jenny Stewart, a Visiting Fellow in the School of Business, UNSW Canberra in Brisbane Times

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