Superannuation could deliver 100% renewables by 2030

The Time 2 Choose rally against coal and gas exploitation in NSW, in Sydney on March 24. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

A new report, Supercharging Australia’s clean energy transition, by the Univeristy of Technology Sydney’s Institute of Sustainable Futures, suggests that an annual investment of just 7.7% of Australia’s trillion-dollar superannuation nest-egg could underwrite the transition to a 100% renewable energy electricity grid by 2030.

The report, which was commissioned by Future Super and 350.org, also says if the investment were raised to 12.4% a year, the full decarbonisation of the entire energy system — including transport and industry — by 2050 could be funded.

It says the transition to a 100% decarbonised economy is not only technically and financially viable, but also “vital for a safe climate future”.

This new report puts the cost of funding the deployment of renewable energy infrastructure and fuels to replace fossil fuel energy sources in the electricity, transport, industrial and primary energy sectors at about $788 billion — no small sum.

However, compared to the $2.6 trillion currently under management in super funds and the $6.5 trillion expected by 2050, it becomes more feasible.

The report says: “Australia’s superannuation funds could play a key role in underpinning future growth in clean energy technologies and capture the value in renewable energy infrastructure growth for their members.”

But Simon Sheikh, who co-founded Future Super as part of the fossil fuel divestment movement, warned the window for Australian super funds to invest in the booming Australian renewable energy market will not stay open forever.

“It’s an important investment, and the rationale behind the report is to show super funds that they really have to change their approach,” he said. “Government settings have a role to play, too, and as they stabilise we’ll see more capital tipped into renewables.

“The question for Australia is where will that capital come from? Will it come from Australian investors, or will it come from offshore?”

“The vast majority of Australians want a renewable energy powered society. Now, thanks to UTS research, we know how achievable this is. Just a small portion of Australia’s collective super savings could completely fund our country’s transition to 100% renewable energy.”