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Annual report on ACT's energy costs released

Image: Minister for climate change and sustainability Shane Rattenbury at the opening of the Crookwell 2 wind farm in early November. The move to 100 per cent renewable electricity added $72 to the average power bill in 2017-18 (Credit: Sitthixay Ditthavong).

The ACT's move towards 100 per cent renewable electricity added almost $72 to the average power bill last fiscal year, a new government report has shown.

By the end of this year, nearly 78 per cent of Canberra's electricity will come from renewable sources. Three major projects come online over the next few months, including the second stage of South Australian wind farm Hornsdale on Saturday.

The territory government has to produce a yearly report about the impact of the switch to green electricity on the hip pocket of Canberrans.

The 2017-18 report, tabled recently in the Legislative Assembly, showed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme and the Large-Scale Feed-in Tariff scheme added a combined $71.95 to the average electricity bill.

That equated to roughly 2 per cent of the total average bill.

Of that cost, $42.20 related to the feed-in tariff scheme and $29.75 to the energy efficiency scheme.

However the cost is rising as the ACT gets closer to its 100 per cent renewable target.

Last year the cost of the combined policies on the average bill was $62.43 – $25.75 for the feed-in tariff scheme and $36.68 for the energy efficiency scheme.

The fall in the cost of the energy efficiency scheme to consumers relates to a small decline in the cost of the program, while the increase in costs for the feed-in tariff scheme relates to the increase in solar and wind farm output.

But the cost is predicted to rise further still.

By 2020, the cost of supporting the large scale renewables and the battery storage program will be about $4.90 per household per week, or roughly $255.

The report said the government remained confident the costs of achieving 100 per cent renewable electricity would be less than originally modelled in 2012.

When brought forward in 2016, the 100 per cent renewable target was estimated to add $290 to the average electricity bill at its peak.

However, Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury said he believed the cost was affordable for the community.

“When you look at the potential consequences of climate change the reports have long said it makes much more sense to invest money now to avoid some of the worst consequences in the future and that’s certainly what we’ve tried to do in the ACT and I think what the report yesterday shows is we’ve been able to do it in a way that is affordable," Mr Rattenbury said.

"It's proven to be a little less than we anticipated which I think is a positive."

An earlier review of the energy efficiency scheme found the total savings from the program - $240 million since 2012 - were four times greater than the cost of running it.

Mr Rattenbury said a bigger threat to the price of electricity was the ongoing instability over energy policy in the federal parliament.

"The failure to plan for the closure of Hazelwood in Victoria, that was the thing that really drove the spike in electricity price 18, 24 months ago and it’s a harbinger of what will happen in the future if we don’t get a proper energy plan in place," he said.

"What we know is that numerous coal-fired power stations are scheduled to close down at the end of their natural lives over the next decade. If we don’t get new supply in place we’ll see more examples like Hazelwood impact on the electricity market."

ACT Climate Council chair Professor Barbara Norman said government had to be conscious of the cost of transitioning to net zero carbon emissions.

"Having said that, if we can contain the costs or be mindful of the costs investing in a carbon neutral future benefits everyone in the long term," Professor Norman said.

The tabling of the report coincided with the release of landmark studies into the health impacts of climate change.

For first time, scientists have been able to link rising mean annual maximum temperatures and suicides for both males and females across Australia, according to a paper published by The Medical Journal of Australia on Thursday.

A wider paper on the issue published in the Lancet also concluded changes in temperature and rainfall would help the spread of climate-sensitive diseases such as dengue and cholera, having a damaging impact on human health, while food insecurity was also likely to become a bigger issue with crop fields falling in 30 countries.

The report also came as new federal government figures show Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are at their highest levels since mid-2011.

2018 is also set to be the the fourth hottest year on record. The World Meteorological Organisation warns temperatures could increase 3 to 5 degrees by 2100 if current emissions trends continue.

Source: Canberra Times

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