How Australia can become a renewable energy superpower

Australia could become a renewable energy superpower – if it seizes the opportunities of global decarbonisation.  It is in Australia’s interest to decarbonise rapidly.  For too long Australia has reduced emissions reluctantly and inadequately, clinging onto the fossil fuel economy, motivated by the false belief that decarbonisation threatens Australia.

The “Renewable Energy Superpower” Report
presents a compelling vision for Australia’a future
released by “Zero Carbon Australia” on 19 October 2015

Australia needs to act now to grasp this opportunity by:

  • Moving with urgency towards 100% renewables
  • Turning  to electricity
  • Replacing fossil fuels including gas, coal and petrol
  • Catching the global wave of renewable energy investment
  • Attracting energy intensive industries to Australia
  • Exporting renewable energy and expertise

Australia will have many advantages in a decarbonised world.  These advantages give us the opportunity to become an energy superpower:

Australia has high quality renewable energy resources, so we can get more renewable energy from less generating equipment, from less capital expenditure. This is evident from the map of global wind and solar renewable energy potential. (Report, p 18) Areas shown in:
.  red-brown have high potential, and
.  white-blue have low potential.

Australia also has vast amounts of renewable energy, more than the energy in its coal, oil, gas and uranium resources combined!

Consider only Australian economic renewable energy resources that are from solar and wind resources, close to the current transmission grid, and competitive in price with new power stations.  This economic renewable energy is estimated at over 5,000 million, million, million joules per year.  This is enough to power the world for ten years.  And this annual energy is 75% more than the energy content of all Australia’s fossil energy resources.  (Report, p 48)

Australia has the advantages of:
.  Abundant renewable energy resources
.  High quality renewable energy resources to produce low cost energy
.  Well trained and capable work force
.  Developed industrial capacity
.  High quality infrastructure
.  Plenty of suitable land available for harvesting renewables
.  Political stability
.  Being close to the developing countries of Asia, particularly China, India and Indonesia.

Australia’s advantages mean that it could do very well if it decarbonised rapidly to benefit from the three major opportunities of global decarbonisation (Report, p 22):

** Opportunity 1:  There will be a period of massive expenditure to build renewable infrastructure to replace the current fossil fuel infrastructure.  This is a once in a century, time-limited, industrial opportunity during the renewable energy transition phase, receding as the renewable energy era becomes established.  As Australia has high quality renewable resources, Australia would have to install less harvesting equipment than many other countries and so could provide cheaper electricity.

** Opportunity 3: Energy intensive industries will have an incentive to relocate to where renewable energy is plentiful and cheap.  As Australia has high quality renewable resources, Australia could provide cheaper electricity to attract energy intensive industries. (Report, p 30)

** Opportunity 3: The production and export of renewable energy such as biofuel, hydrogen, ammonia and electricity. (Report, p 34)

Further, there are risks for Australia not decarbonising.

Australia will be left with large trade deficits unless it decarbonises before the its fossil fuel exports decline, as the world decarbonises.  This is because in 2014 Australia imported $41 billion of petroleum products which were significantly offset by its coal exports.  Australia could save this import bill each year by decarbonising.  Australia faces this significant risk if it clings onto its fossil fuel economy.

Current Australian electricity prices are not competitive.  Approximately $75 billion has been invested in the Australian electricity network infrastructure network since 2005 – because the national energy system gave strong incentives for this spending. This has led to Australia’s domestic power and gas prices rising up to 80% since 2005, after national reforms were completed.  These prices are now internationally uncompetitive.  By decarbonising Australia could regain low energy costs.

A global transition to renewable energy is an unavoidable condition to ensure a safe climate in the future. It is in the interest of the planet. It is in the interest of Australians of today and of future generations. The dimming fossil energy past can be let go with confidence because the renewable energy future is bright

Renewable Energy Superpower
Zero Carbon Australia: October 2015
Beyond Zero Emissions

Renew Economy

Key Words: Climate Change, OzPolitics, Economics
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