Briefing Note | March 2021

State Renewable Energy Targets

Key Points

State Governments have announced renewable energy targets since 2006. These have all followed from the national Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) legislated by the Howard Government in 2001. 
This was expanded in 2009 to a national Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 20 per cent of total generation by 2020. In application this was translated into a volumetric target of 41,000 gigawatt hours of generation and revised down to 33,000 GWh in 2015 as demand fell.
The RET is for large scale generation. In addition there is another 13 gigawatts of rooftop solar generation which has been supported by a second national renewable program,  the Small Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) introduced in 2010.
State renewable energy targets vary across each state and range from aspirational (a target without a specific legislative mechanism to deliver it) to hard targets (where the target is a specific policy objective backed by contracting/funding mechanisms). See the “current targets section below for each jurisdiction’s specific target.
Renewable targets are popular for states because (1) they are a cost effective way of reducing greenhouse emissions (2) renewables are politically popular (3) the targets create a sense of action on climate change. Increased renewables generation is technically easier at lower levels, in smaller jurisdictions (like the ACT) or where the State is already using very high levels of renewables (like Tasmania). Increased renewables is more technically difficult for very large or isolated states (like WA).
As renewable costs fall and penetration rates increase, renewables targets may be less effective as a policy measure. There will greater need for firming/balancing technologies like storage, gas peakers and providers of other technical services to augment larger renewable capacity.

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