Climate research group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has released a briefing paper for the NSW elections. It outlines the proposals for NSW in the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan (ZCA2020) — a plan to transition Australia to 100% renewable energy within 10 years, using commercially available technologies.
ZCA2020 was launched last year around Australia, gaining widespread attention.
It showed that the transition to renewables is technologically possible. Further, it put a price of about 3% of GDP on the transition to 100% renewables in 10 years.
This briefing paper “aims to familiarise NSW politicians with the NSW aspects of the Plan, particularly for the first three years of implementation”.
It presents an important challenge to the rhetoric and actions of both big parties in NSW, who argue that using coal and gas is the only way to keep the lights on.
The briefing paper notes the scientific evidence that says urgent action to cut emissions is essential.
The paper says: “Countries with the highest per capita emissions, such as the United States and Australia, should be aiming for 100% emission reductions over the next ten years if we are to avert dangerous ‘tipping points’ in the earth’s climate system.”
The briefing paper focuses on stationary energy — the sector most responsible for Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
BZE’s research shows that through a combination of wind and concentrated solar thermal power stations with molten salt thermal storage, NSW could transform its energy sector in 10 years.
It also proposes a doubling of installed electricity capacity to get more transport running on clean energy.
The paper proposes five windfarm sites for NSW — in Cooma, Crookwell, Orange, Silverton and Walcha. It lists four solar thermal plant sites — in Bourke, Broken Hill, Dubbo and Moree.
The plan proposes the use of biomass, sourced from wheat crop stubble, as backup for any temporary power generation shortfalls.
BZE contrasts the cost of carrying out its plan to the cost of failing to act. It says a rapid government response to cut emissions will reduce future social, environmental and economic costs.
“By 2040, the Plan is projected to save over $1,000 billion (Net Present Cost, 2010 dollars), compared with business-as-usual,” the paper says. “This is roughly equivalent to Australia’s current annual GDP.”
The paper does not give a detailed breakdown of the NSW costs of ZCA2020, but it says: “The price tag for NSW [for concentrated solar thermal with storage and associated grid upgrades] of a little over $60 billion over ten years is less than the amount that Australia will be paying annually for imported oil within five years”.
BZE’s briefing paper is educational and counters the claim that the technological and economic barriers to transition to renewable energy in 10 years are too big.