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Within our grasp

Published April 12, 2012, Our World Today

Video Production: Marcello Ianno

Reporter: Brianna Piazza

Would you believe it if someone told you within a decade Australia could be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy?

A renewables-powered Australia is technologically and economically feasible within 10 years with $370 billion dollars, according to Australian research.

The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan details how Australia can achieve a sustainable and renewable energy future by phasing out all fossil fuels.

It proposes that Australians should rely on Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) power and wind farms for energy.

The 200-page document, produced by Beyond Zero Emissions and the University of Melbourne Research Institute, found that implementing the blueprint would require $37 billion each year over a 10-year period, which amounts to roughly three per cent of GDP.

“The idea of the study came about because we were trying to fight for renewable energy. We wanted to deal with climate change and we wanted climate solutions,” Beyond Zero Emissions executive director Matthew Wright said.

The blueprint suggests Australia could be powered by about 40 per cent wind and 60 per cent solar power which can store excess energy, enabling electricity use 24 hours a day throughout the country.

The plan involves 12 sites for CST grids with storage and 23 sites for about 6500 wind turbines around Australia.

Most of the proposed infrastructure would be completed during the second half of the decade.

Mr Wright told Our World Today that funding for a green Australia could come from a mix of private or public sources.

However, the document suggested Australians could affordably fund the plan is if each household paid an extra $8 per week.

Mr Wright says the cost of a renewably powered economy is relatively cheap considering the long-term benefits.

“We’re talking about an infrastructure that will last 25 to 50 years. In effect the cost of that energy system when translated into energy bills will mean at the end when they’re paid off there will be a significant reduction in the cost of electricity,” he said.

“In fact, in 25 years if we follow this path we’ll be paying less for electricity than we do today.”

A 2012 report commissioned by the Energy User’s Association of Australia has found that Australian power prices will rise by 30 per cent during the next two years.

Power prices have already risen by 40 per cent since 2007.

According to the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Plan, a 100 per cent renewably powered Australia would create up to 80,000 jobs during construction and generate more than 45,000 permanent maintenance jobs.

“Australia has more than enough capacity to meet the challenge of achieving 100 per cent renewable energy within ten years,” it states.

“The roll-out would require approximately eight per cent of Australia’s existing construction workforce. Manufacturing half of the turbines and heliostats domestically would require three per cent of Australia’s manufacturing workforce, along with a few additional factories.”

The Federal Government aims to cut emissions by five per cent by 2020.

But a 2009 Oxfam report states that Australia needs to aim to reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Mr Wright says that while the government is needed to push reforms through, ordinary Australians also have a responsibility to make a difference.

“It’s really important that communities actually do stuff if their own backyard and also engage politically in making sure this stuff is being implemented … It will take people to drag the government by the scruff of the neck to do it. The sooner we get onto it the better.”

You can read a summary of the report at http://media.beyondzeroemissions.org/ZCA2020_Stationary_Energy_Synopsis_v1.pdf.

Image Source: alum.mit.edu

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One thought on “Within our grasp

  1. Pingback: Powering some change better than none at all | Brianna Piazza

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