Image for Taking a Monumental Stand on Renewable Energy

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First published March 11

Saudi Arabia has seen the light regarding renewable energy, and with crude oil prices predicted to slump to $30 a barrel, the world’s top crude exporter is looking at other means to stimulate their economy through a $50 billion solar and wind initiative. Ironically, back in Australia we seem to be retrograding into the fossil fuel entrenched ethos, and as a result we disregard the economic impetus that this country deserves.

Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister stated about his country’s energy future - “This marks the starting point of a long and sustained program of renewable energy deployment in Saudi Arabia that will not only diversify our power mix but also catalyze economic development.”

Saudi Arabia plans to develop almost 10 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023, and is seeking developers of renewable energy capable of constructing plants of at least 700 megawatts.

Globally, solar photovoltaic power is surging on the back of scaled-up production and continually falling costs.

70GW of new renewable power capacity was added globally in 2016, breaking the 2015 record of 50GW capacity added. China 34.2GW, the United States
13GW and Japan 10.5GW continued to lead with the most solar PV capacity added.

The solar sector employs 2.8 million people globally, outnumbering coal jobs. In the United States, solar now provides twice as many jobs as coal.

Solar costs are now so low that large, industrial-scale solar plants are providing cheaper power than new fossil and nuclear power.

Solar costs have dropped 58% in five years and are expected to continue to fall by a further 40-70% by 2040.

Meanwhile back in Australia

The truth and lies about our energy system seems to have become overly distorted by the Liberals constantly blaming renewable energy on the state power outages, and national electricity prices.

Electricity prices from new coal power stations could rise to A$160 per megawatt hour, while solar parks are around $110 per megawatt hour and are expected to come down significantly in price over time.

Solar power is surging in Australia due to continual falling costs. More than 20 industrial-scale installations set to go ahead across the country, adding another 3700 megawatts into the national grid. That’s enough solar to power 600,000 homes, which is roughly equivalent to several coal fired power stations.

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Australia remains a world leader in household solar. The cost of solar power is now well below the retail power prices in Australian capital cities, and continues to fall. The exception is the ACT, which has the lowest retail prices in Australia.

Australia adds more solar power every year than the combined capacity of South Australia’s (recently closed) Northern and Playford coal-fired power stations.

Over 8000 Australians are now employed in solar and solar has the potential to create thousands more jobs as it grows.

2017 will be a huge year for large-scale solar in Australia.

Larger solar PV installations are already taking off in Australia – on airports, mines, healthcare facilities and businesses.

Australia is expected to reach over 20GW of solar PV in the next 20 years, equivalent to about a third of Australia’s current total power generation capacity.

A range of energy storage technologies will complement the growth of solar power providing secure, flexible power.

Solar and battery storage for households and businesses is already gaining traction in Australia – with more than 6,500 households installing the independent technology. Uptake is expected to triple in 2017.

Large-scale developments such the Lakeland solar and battery storage project and the Kidston solar and pumped hydro project (both in North Queensland) are demonstrating the potential of combining large-scale solar and energy storage technologies.

The Victorian Government is seeking expressions of interest to build a large-scale battery storage facility in western Victoria to improve grid stability.

Currently there is a world-wide renewable energy revolution, and the coal addicted Liberals don’t seem to able to live with that. Like it or not, the Turnbull and Abbotts have no control over markets demands because the renewable energy market is cheaper and the consumers are the ones who will dictate the retail power price.

Almost 100 years ago there were people that could visualise the future!

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Every second our sun produces enough energy to sustain Earth’s needs for 500,000 years. All we need to do is harness it!

*Ted Mead was born in the Latrobe Valley Victoria, and is more than familiar with the smoke-choked skies from the ubiquitous Coal-fired power stations. Ted laments over the past practice of burning fossil fuels as we didn’t realize what the consequences were then. However, and alarmingly, we now know the ramifications of our past but inexplicably we refuse to act.