Green Energy Finance in Australia and New Zealand

Publication | May 2018

Neither New Zealand nor Australia has met its full potential for growing renewable energy; strong and consistent incentives to engender green energy financing are needed.

We explore the history and current status of green energy finance in Australia and New Zealand. Although both countries have enviable renewable energy resources with a 100% renewable mix considered feasible, the two countries present highly contrasting contexts for energy finance. Currently, and largely for historical reasons, renewables make up over 80% of the electricity capacity in New Zealand, whereas in Australia this is 17%. Interestingly, between them and over time, the two countries have employed most of the important policy tools available to incentivize renewables and green energy finance (e.g., carbon taxes, carbon trading, a green investment bank, a green certification market, and feed-in-tariffs). Despite this, we show that between 2004 and 2017 both countries did not meet their potential in terms of renewables and have lower levels of green energy investment relative to gross domestic product per capita than many other developed countries. The Australian and New Zealand context provides many lessons for other jurisdictions—ranging from the need for cross-party and regulatory commitment to energy transition, to the need for policy stability. Indeed, a key issue in Australia and New Zealand is the challenge of designing electricity markets that support energy transition and the investment that it requires. Incumbents in both jurisdictions are fearful of a “death spiral” induced by distributed power, and in Australia political instability and market design issues contributed to a major energy crisis in 2017. However, the crisis, the Paris Agreement, and the associated impetus of new governments in both countries suggest green energy investment is set to increase in the coming years.

WORKING PAPER NO: 840

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  • Climate change
  • Environment
  • Energy
  • Finance sector development