Energy was a key platform issue of the 2022 Federal Election as Australians took to the polls to choose their nation’s leaders. Based on an election platform of ‘Powering Australia’, the Australian Labor Party had a strong commitment to the clean energy transition and instituting real change to combat the effects of climate change.
As the Albanese Government approaches one year in power, we looked into some of its key election commitments in energy, and whether they’re delivering on these promises.
A topic of contention between the parties, the Government’s proposed reforms to the existing safeguard mechanisms to “reduce emissions limits… predictably and gradually on a trajectory consistent with achieving net zero by 2050” will now become law.
After months of debate, Labor has finally secured parliamentary support for these reforms, with the bill passing both Houses last week. The Greens were unsuccessful battle to include a mandatory preclusion to opening new gas and coal projects on domestic soil.
More than 200 of Australia’s largest polluters will be subject to the changes, which will require a reduction in emissions of 4.9% every year in order to help achieve the national target of a 43% emissions reduction by 2030.
The Safeguard Mechanism reforms will be applied from 1 July 2023.
National Reconstruction Fund
The National Reconstruction Fund, deemed Labor’s preliminary plan to ‘rebuild Australia’s industrial base’ was officially enacted into legislation after a series of amendments were made by the Greens and members of the cross bench.
Among the successful amendments includes the mandatory preclusion of funding coal and gas projects and establishing a written policy on the impact of investments of the Corporation on First Nations Australians.
The fund will provide $15billion worth of loans, guarantees and equity to support projects the government sees as building Australia’s “national sovereign capability, broadening and diversifying Australia’s economy.”
Under the fund, renewables and low emissions technologies have been categorised as one of the priority areas set to be diversified and transformed in a bid to take advantage of opportunities in a net zero economy.
The Government have identified up to $3 billion to be spent on renewables and low emissions technologies, supporting the funding of a range of projects from wind turbines to hydrogen electrolysers. Public consultation into what should inform funding priorities was sought after earlier this year.
National Electric Vehicle Strategy
In Australia, transport makes up 19% of national emissions. Road transport is close to 85% of those emissions.
Until recently, there was no uniform approach to the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia, but several state-based policies with varying ambition.
In September 2022, the Government released a consultation document to seek views from the public to form the basis of the National Electric Vehicle Strategy. Over 500 submissions were received by individuals and organisations to form the goals, objectives and actions which would provide the make-up of the strategy.
On 19 April 2023, the National Electric Vehicle Strategy was released, providing an overview of key objectives relating to the accessibility of EVs and instituting the necessary infrastructure to accommodate their expected increased demand.
The strategy also outlines the need to establish Fuel Efficiency Standards to combat the excessive amount of carbon dioxide emitted from light vehicles currently in circulation in Australia and target their high fuel costs. The implementation of these standards will incentivise vehicle manufacturers to offer fuel efficient vehicles on Australian shores and increase our EV accessibility. Currently, Australia is one of few developed countries, including Russia, without a designated fuel efficiency standard in place.
The Coalition has not made any official comment on whether it will support the new strategy, with Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Ted O’Brien stating it needed time to review the document.
“The Coalition will take the time to study the government’s EV Strategy. As always, we will be constructive where we can and critical where we must.”
The Greens have taken a more direct approach, with leader Adam Bandt likening it to “a roadmap but with no clear destination.”
Public consultation on what will form the standards is now being sought, with opinions from climate groups, the automotive industry, individuals and businesses welcome. The consultation period will close on 31 May 2023.
Photo Credit: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese