AQ: Australian Quarterly

Economic diversity in the energy sector: Post-capitalism in the here and now?

Rapid developments in renewable energy technology have made the task of transitioning Australia’s energy system away from fossil fuels not only possible, but economically feasible. Yet compared to other OECD countries, Australia has been slow to embrace the transition, which is particularly striking given its vast renewable energy potential.

While Germany produced 36% of its nation’s electricity needs from renewable energy in 2017 and Sweden achieved its 2020 renewable energy goal of 49% back in 2012, Australia continues to debate its national renewable energy targets, fuelling ongoing policy uncertainty.

In this challenging and constantly shifting policy environment, three distinct economic models have emerged to transition Australia’s electricity system to one powered by renewable energy, each posing radically different economic and political possibilities. The first is for privately owned corporations to continue to leverage private investment and public subsidies to fund the switch to renewable energy, effectively strengthening the capitalist status quo.

Sweden achieved its 2020 renewable energy goal of 49% back in 2012, Australia continues to debate its national renewable energy targets.

At the other end of the economic spectrum are a growing number of small-to-medium sized community-owned renewable energy (CORE) projects that exemplify a post-capitalist alternative. The other alternative to capitalist models of production is the publicly-owned model of electricity generation that was responsible for establishing most of the energy infrastructure across the country until privatisation in

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