Australian engineer Saul Griffiths has the answer to this question.
He has set up advisory bodies for the United States and Australian governments to explain and demonstrate that if they concentrate on electrifying both countries with 100% renewable energy, we not only reach our climate targets and surpass them, we can raise export earnings.
In The Big Switch, Griffiths shows that instead of mining coal and gas, Australia can value-add to current exports by using renewable energy to smelt the mineral ores, like iron ore, alumina and bauxite, to produce green steel and aluminium.
By smelting ores into ingots, export income could be increased by 10 times, while reducing the volume needed to be transported as exports.
We can transport a tenth of the volume in ingots that we presently do in ores and use our cheap renewable energy to keep ingot processing costs far cheaper than other countries. It would also remove Australia’s contributions to the carbon costs of mining, exporting and using fossil fuels.
Griffiths’ methods are simple. When fossil-fuel-using manufacturing equipment needs to be replaced, do it with electric technologies.
Link the West and East coasts with transmission lines so that the peak production of one time zone supplies the peak demand of other time zones.
This would cost around $1 million a kilometre and it would also balance national needs efficiently and link regional storage.
He suggests governments offer incentives to consumers who switch from gas to efficient electric technology (heat pumps and reverse cycle air-conditioning); climate-proof homes with insulation and double-glazed windows; and switch to electric vehicles (which can also serve as energy storage units much more cheaply than household batteries), and allow them to repay changeover/replacement costs for less than they now pay in energy bills.
The low running-cost savings will more than repay initial expenditures and, if funded as green loans, high establishment costs can be paid and repayments can be set at far less than energy bills at present. Within a couple of years, the initial expenditure would be completely repaid and savings would go straight into consumer pockets to be spent in local communities.
[Elena Garcia is a regenerative grazier based in the Western Downs in Queensland. The Big Switch is available through Black Ink Books.]