Renewable Energy is far beyond just a modern term. In fact over the past decade it has become one of the most productive and financially prospective industries on earth. By 2050 much of Western society will be driven by the likes of solar and wind energy … leaving Australia’s short-sighted vision trailing in the rest of the developed world’s wake!
Back in the mid 1970’s Australia was considered the world leader in alternative energy, particularly photovoltaic. This technological research and its associated advancements were part of the Whitlam government’s visionary ideology. Unfortunately soon after the Whitlam government was desposed, the federally-funded solar program was essentially abandoned, which resulted in the technology - and its promising impetus - shifting overseas.
Today countries like California and Germany have invested massive resources into renewable engineering and development both within their own territory and internationally. Many places in Europe are gradually becoming energy independent through the renewable sources of wind, solar and geothermal.
Iceland is exclusively operating on renewable energy, and Denmark is at 75% (having a peak output of 140%), whilst Germany and the Netherlands are well on the way to inspiring Renewable Energy Targets (RET).
The most exciting aspect of these modern developments is the possibility of the future world being 100% powered by renewable energy. This is no longer a fantasy but a reality, which is ultimately a solution to decarbonisation.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, the Abbott government blunders on with its addiction to the consumption of coal, both for local power generation and international exports. Seemingly the Liberals are hamstrung by the job factor and the political donations that they receive from these mining companies, which ultimately tethers them to supporting an outdated energy regime.
Renewable energy already provides 21,000 direct jobs in Australia. That number is estimated to double in the next two decades.
China is rapidly accelerating its own renewable energy advancements as it intends to be less reliant on the importation of coal for electric-power generation. China’s pragmatic approach has dire ramifications for Australian economics as the Liberals refuse to look beyond the current regime of a coal-driven/fossil-fuelled economy.
It is only a matter of time before China loses its dependency on coal … leaving Australia with a fiscal black hole as coal export revenue and associated employment disappears.
The RET scenario in Australia is similar to the USA; the state governments take the initiative for alternative energy production rather than work to a national policy. Since 2003 South Australia has invested $5.5 billion in obtaining its 36% renewable energy source … with 25% of residential homes now having solar photovoltaic panels. It has also set a 50% RET by 2025.
Tasmania’s renewable energy is potentially at 93%. This is largely due to its extensive integrated hydro-electric generation system that was developed in the later decades of the last century. Providing Tasmania has good dam storage levels, the Island is capable of exporting peak power to the mainland grid via the Bass Strait cable link.
Australia — being the sunniest country in the world and one of the windiest — has the potential for renewable energy 500 times greater than current power generation capacity.
With the increase of renewable energy comes the reduction of Greenhouse gas emissions. Some regions such as the ACT have small renewable energy outputs though significant emission reduction targets, which suggests they intend to expand their renewable energy generation dramatically.
The ACT has set a target for 90 per cent of electricity to be provided by (large-scale) renewable energy by 2020; with an interim target of 20 percent to be achieved by the end of this year.
The ACT’s Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Act 2010 (the Act) establishes targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by:
• 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
• 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
• Zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2060.
Labor and the Coalition struck a deal in May this year to lower the RET to 33,000 gigawatt hours. The controversial Biomass (incineration of our native forests) has also recently been amended to the RET through a Liberal Senate deal with the Labor Party. This is indicative of Labor’s vacillation on climate control and renewable energy … as it was inexplicably supported by Tasmania’s supposedly left-wing Senator Lisa Singh.
The above table clearly shows the weak potential of biomass generation in comparison to other renewable energies.
Although Australia has substantial opportunities for renewable energy, it is alarming that the Federal government is proactively seeking to weaken the Renewable Energy Target. As a consequence investment in renewable energy in 2014 has dropped by 70 percent compared with the previous year; regardless that renewable energy is considered clean, safe and to have great economic potential for Australia.
With the recent Liberal attacks on wind generation, it comes as no surprise that the Abbott government wants to see the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation abolished. This is attested by an Abbott directive to stop the CEFC from investing in wind farms and rooftop solar panels whilst it claims “it is not useful for the CEFC to invest in established technologies that can easily attract private funding. Instead they should be focused on new, innovative and emerging technologies”.
The CEFC emerged from a concept proposed by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Investor Group on Climate Change.
Funding for renewable energy in Australia was struggling to match commercial needs, with the result that Australian-made technology was going to China, California and Spain.
The idea was that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation would help keep Australian technology here and create Aussie jobs. The plan was to help Australia move to a lower carbon economy and help renewable energy projects with financing solutions.
The CEFC’s stated mandate is to “facilitate increased flows of finance into the clean energy sector”. And it has actually worked ...
Since it started operations in July 2013, the CEFC has contracted investments of more than $900 million in projects with a total value of more than $3 billion.
Unfortunately these developments seem quite vulnerable to the Liberal’s fossil fuel mantra.
Abbott’s hands look like they will be forever marred by the filth of coal, which is inhibiting Australia’s progression from moving beyond the 20th century into a more energy proficient 21st century alternative-energy driven economy.
Sources – ABC news, The Guardian & The Climate Council of Australia.
• Mike Seccombe, The Saturday Paper: The true cost of green energy The arguments against renewable energy are not just without scientific basis, they lack economic credibility.
• Russell Langfield in Comments: Australia schooled and funded the person who delivered cutting edge solar research (Sliver Technology I believe) in one of our major Universities then it was mothballed under patents (probably until the fossil fuels ran out). The scholar went back to China and now owns one of the largest solar panel manufacturing companies in the world. World leading wind turbine manufacturer Vesta packed its Tasmanian operations up and went elsewhere because the Tasmanian Government would prefer to burn what’s left of our forests for energy instead. Go figure. Our politicians are creating a mass genocide with their myopic 17th Century thinking.