More than 1000 people packed into Sydney Town Hall on August 12 for the Sydney launch of the Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) Stationary Energy Plan. The plan outlines how Australia could meet all its energy needs from renewables within 10 years.
The successful event followed the well-attended Melbourne launch, which attracted about 700 people in July.
The plan is the product of a collaboration between the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute and the non-profit climate advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).
The keynote speakers at the launch were federal MP for Wentworth and former Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull, former NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr, federal Greens Senator Scott Ludlum, the City of Sydney’s chief development officer (energy and climate change) Allan Jones and BZE executive director Matthew Wright.
In discussion, a panel of renewable energy experts also fielded questions from the MC, ABC journalist and broadcaster Quentin Dempster, and the audience.
In his presentation, Wright summed up the main aspects of the plan. He said Australia could be re-powered with renewable energy by 2020 through a mix of 40% wind power and 60% solar thermal with storage.
The plan relies on only commercially available technology and would cost about $370 billion over 10 years — about $8 per household per week.
He said the plan is focused on promoting real solutions to climate change at the pace dictated by the latest climate science.
The plan shows that the main barrier to a rapid transition is not economic or technical, but political.
Jones outlined the City of Sydney’s “Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan”, which aims to transform the city using renewable and decentralised energy, alternative waste treatment, water recycling and conservation, and automated waste processes. He also endorsed the 100% renewables target.
Ludlum, Turnbull and Carr all warmly endorsed the plan and commended its authors.
Turnbull, whose party includes many strident climate deniers, said the ZCA plan “provided the most comprehensive technical blueprint yet for what our engineers, our scientists, can begin to do tomorrow”.
However, Carr and Turnbull both advocated a “price on carbon” as the main policy measure to promote a renewable energy rollout and downplayed the role of public investment. Carr explicitly called for an emissions trading scheme.
Wright explained that the ZCA plan’s authors purposely decided to be “agnostic” regarding what combination of private and public investment would be needed to implement the plan. But he said BZE might canvas some of the options in the future.
The launch was organised by the newly formed group, Beyond Zero Emissions Sydney. Organisers declared the event a big success.
Support for BZE’s project is growing. The Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney voted unanimously to endorse the ZCA plan at an August 10 meeting.
Brisbane will be the next city to host a launch of the ZCA plan. Details of the event will be released soon.
[To read the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, visit Beyondzeroemissions.org. Simon Butler is a member of Beyond Zero Emissions Sydney. Article written in a personal capacity.]