Australia’s transition to electric: a good plan?
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) announced recently that it will ban the sale of fossil fuel powered light vehicles – ICE vehicles – as from 2035. Australia has been reluctant to adopt restrictive measures, political and economic rationales limiting the conversation for years.
Decisions made in and for ACT, which hosts Australia’s capital Canberra, are not rolled out automatically across the country; the ICE ban is therefore limited to the Territory. As some territories depend heavily on mining industry, it is expected that these might be more reluctant to implement hard measures, whilst other parts of the country are more inclined to do so. Australia is likely to end up with a 2-speed sustainability implementation across the country.
Incentive or ban?
The ZEV incentive - or ICE ban, depending on how one looks at it – is in reality a combination of 28 new items, divided into 6 categories. One category focuses on making ZEVs more affordable; as such, ZEVs benefit from
- 2 years free registration
- Stamp duty exemption
- AUD 15K zero-interest loan, also for charging equipment
It doesn’t stop there, however. The entire plan includes charging network expansion, advisory and information and much more to achieve a phase-out of light ICE vehicles from 2035 (2030 for rideshare and taxi networks).
Coal and Gas
The real question is, however, if these measures make sense from a sustainability perspective. Australia’s electricity is generated mainly by burning coal and gas, and the country’s electricity efficiency factor (which determines how “clean” a kWh of electricity is), is amongst the worst on the globe. ACT’s Government is of course aware of this.
In 2019, Australian newspapers announced that “ACT has 100 per cent renewable electricity,” thanks to Canberra’s investment in wind and solar farms. Interestingly, these farms are not located on ACT territory, where rooftop solar only generates a small portion of the total grid capacity.
The energy generated by the wind and solar farms is pushed into the grid that provides the eastern seaboard with power, so in other words, Canberra makes renewable energy available to the grid up to an amount that equates its own need. The glass-half-empty people might rightfully object that ACT’s energy is still not clean, and consequently BEVs are a worst option than a decent hybrid car.
Nonetheless, what is happening here goes beyond this controverse. It’s the first time that an Australian Government is making the tough decision to move away from ICE vehicles, and proposes an attractive plan to ease the transition. Other parts of Australia might be inclined to follow suit – or at least learn from ACT’s experiences. Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, for example, are working on their own sustainability initiatives (including the installation of hydrogen refueling stations).
It might have taken a bit longer, but Australia has finally joined the sustainability bandwagon.