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Last coal-fired plants shut down in South Australia and Scotland show global rise of renewable energy

The State of South Australia has just shut down its last coal-fired power station, providing more evidence of how sub-national governments around the world are taking bold actions to shift toward a zero net emissions pathway.

Two weeks ago, Scotland also closed its last standing coal-fired power plant, as part of the climate action the country is taking to be in line with the historic global Paris Agreement.

The two governments are part of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance, a global network that showcases the benefits for state and regional governments of tackling climate change early, and helps them share best practices and experiences through programs such as the Energy Transition Platform and Compact of States and Regions.

Many Alliance members are taking ambitious climate action and already moving toward cleaner power generation systems. For example Ontario in Canada phased out coal in 2014, and New York State in the US is aiming for 50% renewable electricity by 2030.

The South Australian facility in Post Augusta had operated for 31 years, generating 520 megawatts (MW) of power from brown coal. Its operator, Alinta Energy, made the decision to switch the plant off because it couldn’t compete with the plummeting costs of wind and solar energy in recent years.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has underlined there will be no increased risk to reliability following the closure of the plant, because wind and solar photovoltaic power is expected to reach half of the area’s generation share by the end of this year.

The local community is now pushing for a 110MW solar tower with a storage facility. This way power generation could still be core to the region’s labor force, but be based on cleaner sources – as well as generate green jobs.

In March, Scotland shut down its last coal-fired power station, Longanett, which operated for about 50 years. But similarly to the Australian plant it had been outpaced by the global decline of coal against fast-growing renewables.

While the world agreed in Paris to push toward decarbonization, forward-thinking sub-national governments such as Scotland and South Australia are accelerating the transition. Leading businesses are also taking advantage of this favorable policy framework, shifting toward renewable energy – with some even aiming to go 100%.

To help these companies achieve this ambitious goal, The Climate Group set up with CDP RE100, a campaign which so far has 58 leading businesses on board including IKEA, Tata Motors, Microsoft and Nike.

“Renewable energy is common sense energy,” Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA Group said in an interview for Climate TV. RE100 is a fantastic initiative, because it’s setting ambitious, broad time frames, and stimulating the market for ambitious deployment of renewables.”