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Further opportunities

The actions taken so far have been in relation to the suite of existing and planned actions to transition to a low-carbon economy, and to prepare for the projected impacts on our urban areas, agriculture, coast and regions. The severity of future impacts will be determined by the changes already embedded in the climate system and by the pace and scale of reducing global emissions.

This points to further opportunities in 2 areas. The first involves more detailed and localised climate risk assessments to inform planning, investment and management in key areas such as urban warming, coastal risks, threatened habitats and aquatic ecosystems (surface and groundwater). This should be done in partnership with the Bureau of Meteorology and other science agencies specialising in tracking climatic trends and improving climate modelling.

The second is to speed up the transition to 100% renewable energy. Australia’s chief scientific body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and a number of Australian studies have concluded it is technically feasible to create a 100% renewable, reliable and secure electricity system for Australia and SA by 2030.

Australia has extraordinary renewable energy potential, particularly in wind and solar. Wind and solar photo voltaic (PV) generation are now among the cheapest forms of new bulk energy generation globally, with costs predicted to continue to decline.

Wind and solar PV are highly variable and non-synchronous. However, this can be overcome through the use of a diverse set of renewable technologies, which include flexible and dispatchable generation, storage and technologies providing inertia, and an increase in transmission capacity to link geographically dispersed renewable generation and loads across the National Energy Market.

Nowhere in the developed world are solar and wind resources together so abundant as in the west‐facing coasts and peninsulas of southern Australia. The Upper Eyre Peninsula and Spencer Gulf, in particular, reveal unique combinations of intense solar radiation and access to diverse and strong wind patterns

With SA already set to achieve 70% renewable electricity generation by 2020, a plan for zero carbon electricity supply by 2025 is well within our reach.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is an example of how to speed up the transition. The ACT Government has legislated to increase consumption of renewable energy from 29% to 100% in just 4 years, from 2016–17 to 2020–21. This will provide over 95% of the reduction needed to reach the 100% target by 2020. The remainder will come from incentives for rooftop solar and battery storage for residential properties, as well as the ACT share of the national Renewable Energy Target Scheme.