Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Renewable Energy for Australia

A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020The document "A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020" was released by a coalition of environment groups on 23 April 2007. As the title says, it proposes a renewable energy target for Australia. The report has received a lot of press criticism for not costing the proposals. But it is much better thought out than proposals from the federal government for incandescent light bulbs to be banned, or by state governments to put in desalination plants.

The report is sponsored by the Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace, and Climate Action Network Australia. Unfortunately it is provided as an environmentally unfriendly 28 page, 525 KB PDF document. Here is the Executive Summary:
Climate change threatens the human, economic, and environmental future of Australia. Temperatures are set to rise by up to 6°C by 2100 unless we act now. Even a 1°C rise would see drought increase by up to 70 per cent in NSW, and regular bleaching of over half of the Great Barrier Reef. The actions we take, or fail to take, in the next fi ve years will decide whether we cross the threshold of dangerous climate change.

Any plan for deep cuts in greenhouse emissions entails a major roll-out of renewable energy technologies. Countries around the world have introduced ambitious renewable energy targets to reduce emissions and ensure that they get a slice of the rapidly growing renewable energy market. Australia is missing this opportunity.

A 25 per cent by 2020 legislated renewable energy target would see Australia join the global clean energy revolution. Combined with medium energy efficiency measures, the target would conservatively deliver:
  • 16,600 new jobs, n $33 billion in new investment,
  • 15,000 MW new renewable capacity,
  • 69 million tonnes reduction in electricity sector greenhouse emissions (almost as much as the total emissions from road transport), and
  • enough renewable electricity to power every home in Australia.
More than 17,000 Australians are already employed in renewable energy or energy efficiency, despite the lack of government support for these industries. A 25 per cent target would increase the number of clean energy jobs to over 33,000.

Australia has plentiful renewable energy resources, and a quarter of our electricity could easily be supplied by a mixture of hydropower, bioenergy, wind, and solar. This would prepare us for a further transition to clean energy after 2020.

With a 25 per cent renewable energy target, our electricity prices would still remain among the cheapest in the world. A 25 per cent target, coupled with medium energy efficiency measures, would add around $64 to the average household annual electricity bill, or $1.25 per week. In contrast, current projections for business as usual electricity use could see average household electricity bills increase by $234 per year.

In order to make sure that we realise these benefits, Australia needs:
  • A national legislated target for 25 per cent of electricity to come from renewable energy by 2020.
  • A national target for zero electricity growth by 2010, followed by annual average reductions reaching at least 1.5 per cent by 2020, and supporting measures to achieve it.
  • Urgent amendment of National Electricity Market regulation so network expansion costs can only be passed on to consumers if companies demonstrate that demand management or energy efficiency are not alternatives.
  • A fixed price for solar PV electricity going into the electricity grid (called a ‘feed-in tariff’), sufficient to ensure householder investment.
In addition to the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, other actions will be required to reduce electricity sector emissions to 30% below 1990 levels. Introducing a price on carbon, improving the efficiency of fossil fuel power stations, significantly increasing co-generation, and fuel switching will all be necessary.

From: The Executive Summary of "A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020", by Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, and Climate Action Network Australia, 23 April 2007.

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