Australia: A renewable energy superpower.

Australia has a great opportunity to secure future jobs and wealth, by moving to renewable energy and becoming a renewable energy superpower. We need to act now, before other nations do it.

Australia glows orange on this world map – we have outstanding winds and sun, an enduring advantage. We can become a renewable energy superpower by:

  • rapidly expanding renewable energy generation,
  • producing cheap and reliable electricity,
  • exporting renewable energy into Asia,
  • expanding energy-intensive industries, like making aluminium from our bauxite, and
  • supplying renewable energy equipment and solutions.

The global energy transition is underway. It’s an enormous global wealth-generating opportunity, driven by the plummeting costs of renewable energy.

If we pursue this vision with vigour, it will be economically beneficial to Australia. And we will reduce our carbon emissions. And our renewable energy exports will enable other nations to reduce their emissions.


An alluring vision of Australia’s future

Some suggest that the transition to renewables will damage our economy, but the opposite is true.

The rapid expansion of renewables could lead to a boom in the Australian economy as we can export renewables to an electric world and become a renewable energy superpower.

Private industry in Australia is already establishing the green shoots of this transformation, despite the Coalition government demonising renewables.

It’s in Australia’s short-term economic interest to promote the global effort to tackle climate change.


Our competitive advantages

Australia can become a renewable energy superpower as we have competitive advantages:

  • abundant quality solar and wind resources,
  • a widespread electric grid,
  • vast areas of suitable land,
  • a skilled workforce and industry sector,
  • capable research organisations,
  • closeness to growing Asian markets like Indonesia, China, India, and Japan,
  • abundant mineral resources, and
  • a secure stable society.

Australia has exceptional renewable energy resources

This map shows the global distribution of “combined wind and solar generation potential”, based on NASA global wind and solar data.

  • The highest potential is red, then orange
  • The lowest potential is white, then blue
  • Developed nations have no stripes.

Note that:

  • Australia glows orange on the map. We have outstanding high-potential and are an industrialised nation.
  • Most of Europe, northern Asia, and North America is a low potential blue.

One factor behind Australia’s exceptional renewable energy potential is that Australia gets stronger sun than most developed countries.


Renewable energy superpowers

The world is transitioning from the “fossil energy era” to the “renewable energy era”. Nations that have competitive advantages, and take this opportunity to invest in renewable energy, will become the global industrial powerhouses of the future: renewable energy superpowers.


Plans by “Beyond Zero Emissions”

The Renewable Energy Superpower Report (2015) details this vision for a prosperous Australia. You can download this free report as a 100-page pdf file.

The Repowering the Northern Territory (2019) report describes how renewable energy can power jobs and investment in the Northern Territory.

To become a renewable energy superpower, Australia needs to act on these reports and on the other BZE plans detailing how Australia can rapidly move to zero emissions.

Professor Ross Garnaut makes similar arguments.


There are three major opportunities.

(1) Supplying equipment and solutions

The demand for “renewable energy equipment” and “energy efficiency solutions” will grow rapidly, over the next 20 years, as the world replaces polluting energy. This opportunity will peak during the transition period and then decline. To benefit from this energy transition, we need to catch this wave of change now.

Private industry is already moving in this direction, e.g. a Brisbane-based company that is making and exporting electric vehicle chargers. See examples of supplying equipment and solutions.

(2) Attracting energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries

Industries that use a lot of energy will tend to migrate to the places offering the lowest cost of operation, and places with quality renewable energy sources will have an ongoing advantage. For example, Australia could become the best place in the world to make aluminium and steel.

Private industry is already moving in this direction, e.g. The Whyalla Steelworks.

(3) Exporting renewable energy

The production and export of renewable energy commodities, such as hydrogen and electricity will play a significant role in the renewable energy future.

Again, private industry is already moving in this direction; see my page on exporting renewable energy.

Hard-nosed economic sense

The actions of private-industry suggest that it is hard-nosed economic sense for Australia to harvest its renewable energy and foster its renewable energy businesses. With government support, these initiatives could provide many jobs and security for Australia.


Cheap electricity will become more important as the use of electricity expands

Electricity will increasingly power industrial processes and transport. This will make international differences in power prices more important. It will favour countries with quality renewable energy sources.


If Australia delays the transition, we risk a trade deficit

If Australia continues to delay moving to renewables, we risk a large trade deficit.

  • In 2014, petrol and other fossil fuel imports into Australia cost $41 billion, costs that were covered by our coal and gas export income.
  • In the future, as the world moves away from fossil fuels, our fossil fuel exports will decline and stop covering our fossil fuel imports.
  • We could face a rapidly growing fossil fuel, trade deficit.

Security

The British built their empire on coal. The Americans built their empire on oil. Why are the democracies leaving the Chinese to build an empire on renewable energy, the energy of this century?
(China: Beware the green dragon not the red one
Crispin Hull: March 2018)

We should strive to become a renewable energy superpower, in the interests of Australian security.


A narrow window of opportunity

There is a narrow window of opportunity as we have other nations will want to supply this renewable energy, e.g. the Gulf petro-states.


The dominance of fossil fuel myths

For years, interviews and the ABC program Q&A seem to have been dominated by the myths of fossil fuel advocates. These views have not been effectively rebutted.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale was on Q&A (13 May 2019) and 7:30 Report (7 May), and he did not convey that the renewables revolution could be a boon for Australia.

Leigh Sales asked Di Natale “Will rapid cutting of emissions force Australia into recession”. He started answering by arguing that we must act rapidly as there are looming environmental disasters, e.g. the recent forecast of a million extinctions. This is describing his motivation, but it is not directly answering the economic question, and listeners not motivated by environmental protection tune out. He did briefly state some of the jigsaw pieces of the argument for Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower, e.g. the creation of new jobs and hydrogen export. However, he did not put the pieces together by asserting that strong rapid climate action has the potential to push Australia into greater prosperity and security. He made no mention of the opportunity for Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower.

The interviewer’s question itself planted a fear that a slow transition would lead to a recession and the Senator needed a stronger argument against this.

So, not even the Greens are presenting a rapid transition as a great opportunity, one that could see Australia become a renewable energy superpower.


Other reasons for the transition

Australia could benefit from a rapid transition to renewables. Other reasons for a rapid transition include:

  • The economic costs of not acting to limit climate change,
  • Limiting damage to the environment and maintaining the web of life, and
  • The health benefits of the renewables transition

Promoting this vision via email

Please consider emailing the above text to others. You can paste it into an email, including the map image, and then edit it.


Updated 3 Nov 2019