There has been a steady increase in all forms of renewable energy supplies in Australia over the period 2000–2007, fostered by government initiatives.
In 2000 the Australian Federal Parliament passed the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act. This Act saw the introduction of the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) Scheme that requires an additional 9500 GWh of renewable electricity by the year 2010, enough power to meet the residential needs of 4 million people. The MRET Scheme operates through a system of tradable Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that are created by renewable energy generators at the rate of 1 REC for each MWh of electricity generated from an eligible renewable source. The Federal Government is currently reviewing the MRET Scheme with the view to increasing the target.
In 2004 the Australian Federal government released a new energy policy White Paper, Securing Australia’s Energy Future (external site). Included in this policy was the introduction of the 'Low Emissions Technology Development Fund' (LETDF) that will provide A$500 million (US$395 million) to companies that can demonstrate new technologies that will significantly reduce long term green house gases.
A number of additional renewable energy programs are outlined under Government Initiatives.
The energy white paper classified hot dry rocks technology as a ‘market leader’ (highest category) technology for Australia. Market leader technologies are technologies where Australia has a strategic interest.
In December 2007, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed a work program to implement the Federal Government’s plan to expand the national mandatory Renewable Energy Target (RET) to 45,000GWh by 2020.
Progress Towards National Targets for Renewable Energy and Emissions
The Federal Government’s Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) is 9,500 GWh of new renewable electricity by the year 2010. Current analysis projects Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions at 109% of 1990 emissions levels over the period 2008–2012, which is slightly above the 108% Kyoto target. However, Australia remains committed to meet its Kyoto protocol target . The combined effect of current Australian Federal, State, Territory and local governments policies and programs is expected to cut annual emissions by 87 Mt CO2 -e by 2010, and further measures will help meet the target.
The Victorian Government implemented the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) scheme in late 2006, whereby energy retailers are required to purchase a minimum of 10% renewable energy by 2016. This equates to a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 27 million tonnes and it is estimated this will lead to $2 billion in new investments and 2200 jobs.