*Pic: Renewables are the only low-cost environmentally sound solution to Australia’s future energy needs
Renewable energy supply in Australia is still in its infancy compared to other developed nations such as China, USA and Western Europe. Less than 15 percent of our nation’s energy supply is produced through renewables, and considering the open space and sun availability we should be one of the world’s leading countries in this field was it not for our conservative governments ties to the fossil fuel industries.
The above graph clearly displays how dependent Australia is on fossil fuel production. Even in Tasmania, which has the potential to be almost totally renewable, given adequate rainfall, is still reliant on fossil fuels for its energy generation.
Lights out for fossil fuels
For large-scale renewable energy networks, storage will be the clincher. A key recommendation from the Finkel Review was that future renewable energy projects be able to produce dispatching power – that is, to store and then release energy to accommodate demand fluctuation and the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources.
The Bankwest Curtain Economic Centre report also highlights the importance of adequate storage options, as well as balancing efficiencies in any conceivable future of large-scale renewables solutions.
Efficient energy storage is a major global Resource and development mission that will certainly reach its goal; could it then be lights out for fossil fuels?
While technological advances and retail competition will continue to drive cost and performance improvements for solar/storage systems, no single energy source will deliver a national panacea for lower energy costs, lower emissions and meeting our commitment to the Paris climate accord. The best strategy is to optimise and integrate current and emerging energy technologies, and carefully manage the market changes.
Regulation authorities are now getting the call to action. Western Power recently requested the Australian Energy Market Commission amend a rule that prevents distribution businesses using individual power systems as an alternative to a grid connection, particularly in rural areas. The Commission accepted that, due to declining costs of solar PV and batteries, providing an off-grid supply can be cheaper than maintaining the power lines that link remote customers to the grid, but that “a range of laws, rules and jurisdictional instruments is required to address these issues”.
The AEMC’s decision reflects the regulatory wilderness of Australian energy markets in transition, and the urgent need for continued research in this area. Certainly, the path is tangled, but clearly it’s time for Western Australia to join the mission and start navigating to a sustainable energy future.
The rest of the world
In December 2015 around 200 countries from across the globe signed the Paris Agreement, committing to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.
The simplest solution to do so is through renewable energy, which ultimately is a phase out of fossil fuels.
One common theme among all these successful countries is that when leaders actively set ambitious goals for renewable energy generation and support them with investments, growth comes fast.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to making the switch. Some countries, like Kenya, have ample geothermal and can ramp up fast. Denmark, have been steadily improving their wind power generation for decades. Morocco, are betting big on solar while planning for backup from other renewables.
Meanwhile back in Australia political blinkers seemed to have been permanently glued on towards long-term continuation of fossil fuel energy. Surprisingly Australia may reach its Paris agreement targets through private investments in renewable energy rather than government political initiatives, though Australia has a long way to go to prove to rest of the world that they are taking carbon reduction in our atmosphere seriously.
*Ted Mead is optimistic that renewable energy will become the dominant energy producer in the next decade or so regardless of the stone-age thinking from the conservative leaders in America and Australia. Ted believes as the climate change crisis pulls into swing most countries will have little choice but to follow the renewable revolution if private investment is the driving force behind the developments. As a result Australia’s economy will dwindle through lack of investment in public infrastructure and foresight as the coal industry crumbles leaving the countries energy markets tied up in private hands.