Part of the Australian Labor Party’s failure to topple the Morrison government in the 2019 election has been blamed on a lack of clarity about the cost and impact of its climate and emissions policy. Keen to not make the same mistake in the 2022 federal election, expected in early 2022, Labor forked out for external modelling and put a price figure on its Powering Australia Plan (Plan) – $683 million over four years. But what would this plan look like for the average punter looking to save money and emissions with solar and home battery storage?
Labor released its long awaited energy policy last week. And while the cash required to execute the Labor plan is a fairly large figure, so is 604,000, the number of jobs modelling says the plan will create. Next to consider is 82%, which is the share of electricity in the Australian grid that opposition leader Anthony Albanese has pledged for renewable energy, with solar and battery storage playing a key role.
Of course, the defining number of Labor’s Plan is its emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030 – a significant leap on the Coalition’s Abbott-era 26-28% target that remains in place. And already the plan is receiving a better reception than Labor’s previous attempt ever did. In 2018 the Business Council of Australia (BCA) described Labor’s 45% goal as “economy wrecking”. Fast forward to 2021, and the BCA has changed its tune, describing the new 43% target as a “sensible and workable plan to meet Australia’s net zero emissions commitment”.
Solar & batteries
Labor has already promised $20 billion for its Rewiring the Nation plan, a plan to modernise the notoriously rickety and old grid that forms the National Energy Market (NEM). And the independent modelling it commissioned showed that the increased penetration of renewable energies will not only result in emissions reductions but also lower electricity prices.
However, 35% of Australians are ‘locked out’ of accessing the benefits of solar because they rent, live in apartment blocks or come from lower-income communities. Therefore, among the policies in the Labor plan is $100 million for shared ‘solar banks’. In other parts of the world, such solar systems are known as “community solar” and it’s a form of solar development that is expanding quickly.
Modelling of Labor’s policy demonstrated that solar households with battery storage pay less for electricity and produce fewer emissions. Therefore, the plan is to get as much storage to as many people as possible by committing to $200 million for the installation of 400 community batteries across Australia – providing battery storage for up to 100,000 households.
And while these policies aim to bolster the uptake of solar and storage generally, Labor is also committing $100 million for the creation of 10,000 new energy apprentices, including solar installation and maintenance workers.
Labor has also promised to bring more and cheaper electric vehicles (EVs) to the Australian market, and this is a boon to any solar and battery storage owner. After all, it can only be a good thing if you no longer have to empty your wallet every time you want to fill up your car. With solar-plus-storage, you can charge up at home using just the power of the sun.
The Plan’s National Electric Vehicle Strategy assumes that EVs will make up 89% of new car sales in Australia by 2030. One way Labor proposes help assure this eventuation is through the creation of a rapid second-hand market from the government’s own electric fleet.
Other incentives for EV uptake included under Labor’s Plan are the exemption of EVs below the luxury car tax threshold for fuel efficient vehicles from fringe benefit tax, removing the 5% import tariff (which would mean a $12,000 saving on a Tesla Model 3), and strong support for charging infrastructure outlay.
Of course, Australians will remember that Prime Minister Scott Morrison denounced EVs during the run-up to the last election, saying that Labor’s then policy amounted to “war on the weekend” and that EVs could never “tow your boat” or “tow your trailer” – both patently false claims. The Coalition now seems to have backed away from this denouncement and has chucked a fossil-fuelled U-turn with its own EV policy, albeit a rather temperate offering.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said that the Coalition has failed on energy policy for a decade, and that goes for the job opportunity as well. He described the Labor plan as a boost to renewables “less than a month after the biggest climate conference in world history” where “Australia has been asked to try again when it comes to climate policy, after being ranked last in the world.”
Albanese went on to say that the Coalition has and will continue to fail the climate challenge. Whereas “Labor will … create jobs, economic opportunities across regional Australia and cheap power. Under Labor, Australia will respond to the changes that are coming and shape our future to benefit all of us.”
While climate and energy policy remains fraught in Australia, there is clearly a significant upside for solar and battery storage under the Labor plan. But with international endeavours to tackle climate change gaining pace, and renewable energy technology continuing to make gains, the future for residential solar and batteries remains bright, regardless of what Australia’s major parties intend to do.