By Celine Lai
Apolitical, ‘the global learning platform for government’, showcases climate policies that have demonstrated the potential for scalability and effective change, and highlights the real people behind them. The selection was generated from in-house research and nominations from the Apolitical network, and reviewed by a selection of independent experts.
The website shows these policies organised into nine groups. Some of the climate-friendly policies related to electricity are outlined below, shared from Apolitical’s 100 Climate Policy Breakthroughs.
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Data-smart Streetlights in Buenos Aires
The energy savings from Buenos Aires’ data-smart LED light system prevent around 44,000 tons of Co2 emissions per year.
The city of Buenos Aires uses an interconnected smart grid of LED-streetlights to conserve energy and enhance public services like waste management, traffic signals, and early warning systems. In 2013, the city began a four-year partnership with Philips Lighting to retrofit over 91,000 street lights. The lights were also connected to a data platform named CityTouch, which communicated information to city planners allowing them to make informed and efficient decisions on city lighting. The remote control and dimming technology of the lights ensure they are used only when they are needed — leading to a 50% drop in energy costs for the city. The information is also useful to city startups: apps like AllGreenUP and WeSmartPark use it to offer digital solutions to traffic problems. In June 2019, Buenos Aires became the first Latin American city lit by 100% LEDs, and now enjoys 30% lower maintenance costs as well as public safety benefits thanks to the well-lit streets. The Buenos Aires example shows how to use digital infrastructure to simultaneously mitigate climate change and improve city processes.
The UK’s Coal Phase Out
Britain’s reliance on coal has dropped from 40% in 2012 to less than 3% in 2019.
In 2015, Britain’s government announced that power from coal would be phased out by 2025. The Climate Change Act of 2013 had already started to disincentive coal by introducing a carbon price, a charge for fossil fuel emitters that sits on top of the EU’s tax to drive faster decarbonisation. The government also enacted Emissions Performance Standards — standards that are impossible for coal-fired generation to meet without carbon capture technology. These technologies aren’t yet economically feasible, so the restrictions effectively rule out new coal construction. Along with support for renewable energies like offshore wind, the policies formed clear signals from the government that there was no future for the British coal industry, and the measures have brought down coal faster than anticipated. In 2018, Britain’s renewable energy capacity overtook fossil fuels for the first time. As of April 2020, only four operating coal plants are left.
However, it’s not as simple as just saying no to coal — to a large extent coal capacity has been replaced by natural gas. The government will also have to think carefully about how to manage job transitions for those left without roles in the coal sector. But the end of coal in Britain is a signal to the rest of the world, where coal is also falling rapidly. Coal power generation in the US decreased by a third between 2010 and 2017. Although some countries like China and India continue to scope new coal, their pipelines are continuing to shrink as coal becomes the evidently risky option. In 2019, Britain went a record 3,700 hours without using coal for power.
Renewables share in German gross power production in 2019 was 42.6%, a greater share than Natural gas, coal, or nuclear.
Decarbonising large-scale electricity generation is an effective way to cut emissions across all sectors, such as transport or buildings. But doing so requires a huge shift in energy infrastructure. Well designed policies are required to accelerate investment in renewable energy plants, and Germany’s Feed-in-Tariffs (FITs) prove an instructive example. In the Energy Sources Act of 2000, Germany introduced the tariff — a policy that sets energy prices at a fixed amount for the duration of a long-term purchasing contract. By guaranteeing consistent and predictable prices, the FIT gave German renewable energy providers confidence that their initial investments in projects would be economically viable. This led to a boom in renewable infrastructure, particularly wind; from 2009-2016, Germany’s offshore wind generation capacity grew from 40 MW to 4130 MW. Additionally, when in 2012 the growth of production meant consumer costs got too high, the policy was adapted to a sliding-premium model where the price is determined by last year’s market. The policy is part of a package named “Energiewende”, Germany’s planned transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy towards clean power. Countries around the world have implemented FITs of varying scales, but Germany’s case highlights how FITs create an attractive and stable legal framework to encourage nascent renewable energy investment.
Solar-powered medical care in Chhattisgarh
Distributed solar photovoltaics
984 hospitals in Chhattisgarh now run on uninterrupted solar energy, for a cumulative 3MW of installed capacity. The solar systems reduced energy costs by 80% compared to the grid or back-up diesel.
In primary health centres in Chhattisgarh, India, energy blackouts were creating a major public health problem. To solve it, India’s Health Ministry partnered with the state-run Chhattisgarh State Renewable Development Agency (CREDA) to use solar power to improve public health outcomes. CREDA manages the tendering and installation of solar panels for the health centres, provides technical training to staff members to ensure long-term sustainability, and maintains the panels. The programme also installs energy-efficient appliances such as LEDs and freezers, which contributed to energy savings. CREDA runs on funding from the Ministry of Health and at no cost to the health centres, which have seen vast improvements in health outcomes — a study showed 50% more patients were admitted to hospitals after the solar installations. The government of Chhattisgarh is also tackling climate change through a 2018 afforestation drive aiming to plant 80 million trees across its districts.
Melbourne’s Renewable Energy Project
Onshore wind turbines
The 2017 purchasing agreement will avoid 96,800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
Melbourne’s Renewable Energy Project (MREP) is a government-led consortium of institutions that leverages group purchasing power to procure and finance renewable energy. In 2017, the City of Melbourne led the 14 consortium members to purchase an annual 88GWh of energy from a future wind farm. The unique purchasing model created long-term price certainty for both the members and wind farm developers, and construction on Pacific Hydro’s Crowlands wind farm began only months after the tender was completed. As part of MREP, the participating local governments will be supplied with renewable energy for the next decade. The programme also contributes to the government’s ongoing goal of stimulating the local green economy, creating 140 jobs in wind farm construction as well as new opportunities for local businesses around the state. After the project’s success, MREP released a second tender in November 2019 that combines the purchasing power of seven organisations to buy 113 GW of renewable energy.
The group also produced a guide to large-scale contracts for other governments to use, hoping that other Australian cities will follow MREP in financing renewable energy development.
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These 100 climate policy breakthroughs give us hope that Australian leadership at the federal and state government levels will harness the opportunities for economic recovery from COVID-19, and simultaneously address climate change, by using our country’s plentiful renewable sources.
The Morrison government needs to commit to long-term strategies backed by science, sound financial management, and collaboration.
For example, Australia needs to ditch its reliance on fossil gas as a transition fuel as we move towards a renewable future. Leading climate experts state that further expansion of the gas industry is neither consistent with safe climate nor in alignment with the Paris Agreement.
Despite what the fossil fuel industry would have you believe, ‘natural’ gas is not a cleaner fuel than coal, but is actually worse than coal in the short term, due to its release of methane into the atmosphere.
Please inform yourself and others about the urgent need to move away from gas.
You can take part in actions to call for a just transition from fossil fuels to renewables:
- Support the School Strike 4 Climate’s #FundOurFutureNotGas rally in Perth on the 21st of May.
- Join our first ‘Woodside Wednesdays’ event, as part of our campaign against Woodside’s proposed Scarborough gas project.
- If you’re keen to volunteer with like-minded folk, join our 350 Boorloo Perth team!
The references below give useful information to read up on and share via social media: