In 1998, the government established the Australian Greenhouse Office. The first such government office in the world to directly address global warming, the AGO is in charge of greenhouse gas emissions as well as the Energy Star and Energy Rating programs for appliances, buildings and industrial equipment.
2000's Renewable Energy Act introduced the Small–scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) for homes and small businesses and the Large–scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) for power generation and corporations. In 2009, this act was amended, adding the Expanded Renewable Energy Target (ERET) with a plan to have 20% of Australia's electricity generated using renewable energy.
To meet the goals of AGO, ERET, and state-enforced targets, Australia will need to generate 45,000 gigawatt-hours by 2020, while reducing CO2 emissions to as little as 60% of 2000 levels by 2050.
Australia's largest source of renewable energy is also its oldest. Hydro Tasmania generates 9,000 GWh of electricity from thirty power plants, twenty-seven of which are hydroelectric dams. The Anthony Power Development, completed in 1994, is seen as the last practical expansion of hydroelectric power on the island.
The Snowy Mountains Scheme iss the largest civil engineering project in the country's history, providing both power and water for western Australia. This complex of sixteen dams and seven power stations was completed in 1974, twenty-five years after the project began. On average, this system of dams provides 4,500 GWh of electricity per year. Two small-scale generator stations have been added to the system in the past decade, with a third currently under construction.
Production is concentrated in South Australia and Victoria. Currently, Australia can produce up to 1,880 MW of electricity from wind, with another 1,000 MW of capacity under construction. For the year preceding September 2011, wind power generated 4,985 GWh of electricity.
Construction has begun on the Mildura Solar Concentrator Power Station, with a planned 2 MW pilot facility to completed at the end of 2012. If successful, this will be extended to a 102 MW facility with the option of later adding an additional 50 MW. Instead of direct sunlight, the station will use satellite dish-shaped mirror systems that will focus light onto small photovoltaic panels.
Currently, there are three facilities in Australia producing ethanol, all of which are on the east coast. Up to 10% ethanol is allowed in consumer petrol, which can be safely burned in any vehicle. The Australian government is currently working on a standard for E85 (85% ethanol, 15% petrol,) while Caltex has started selling its own E85 for flex-fuel Holden Commodores.
While biodiesel production in most of the world focuses on seed oils, Australia's industry concentrates on tallow alongside waste and virgin oils. B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% mineral diesel) is available to consumers, while B20 sees limited use at mining facilities.
Local Power Generation
The Solar Homes and Communities Plan was Australia's first solar rebate program, offering up to $8,000 in discounts for installations. In 2009, the program was replaced by Solar Credits, offering Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) for residential solar installations. While these can be sent directly to the buyer, in most cases the company installing the panels offers a discount in exchange for the STCs.
Solar hot water rebates moved to STCs in early 2010. Homeowners can get a $1,000 credit for replacing a traditional water heater with a solar unit.
The National Solar Schools Program offers $50,000 grants for photovoltaic systems, solar water heaters, and efficiency improvements at education facilities.
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