Moving Victoria to zero greenhouse emissions

June 1, 2007

The following is an abridged version of the Beyond Zero Emissions stationary energy plan for the state of Victoria. It is reprinted with permission from MATTHEW WRIGHT of Beyond Zero Emissions, a non-profit, volunteer-run campaign set up under Sustainable Energy Future Inc. The full version can be read at http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org.

The move to a zero emission society will be expensive, but at the same time will drive a rebirth of our manufacturing industries, produce employment and make our societies cleaner, healthier and even more democratic. This will happen because energy production will move away from the present large, centralised infrastructure that is reliant on mining industries with their associated politics and resource wars, to smaller, local scale infrastructures based on renewable energy sources.

For stationary energy production, we would need to:

•Mandate efficiency across all sectors (housing, electrical goods, industry etc).
•Undertake a massive building of renewable energy generators (largely wind and solar thermal).
•Upgrade the electricity distribution network.
•Control peak electricity demand (pricing, smart meters, efficiency).
•Use and perhaps supplement existing peak power generators (hydro, gas).
•Shut down the carbon industries, such as coal and aluminium.

Beyond Zero Emissions proposes that the Victorian government spend $20 billion to install 12,000 MW of wind power, resulting in Victoria running almost entirely on renewable energy for stationary energy requirements.

In Victoria, we are currently using around 44,000 GWh of electricity each year. Aluminium smelting in Victoria uses around 9600 GWh of this annual figure. This brings the total annual requirements for power (if we eliminate the aluminium industry) to 34,400 GWh.

We can rely on around 20% of wind farm capacity as a reliable guaranteed base load that doesn't need any spinning reserve (conventional base load generation does). With 12,000 MW of wind power, this would give us 2400 MW of secure reliable base load.

The reason we can rely on wind power (with no backup at all) for 20% of base load, and one reason that variability of wind power output is not a big issue as suggested by some, is the geographical diversity of our wind resource. Of course to do this, we may need to invest $1-2 billion in the grid.

The current maximum peak load is 8000 MW. With shutdown of the aluminium industry, it is reduced to 6900 MW. This would be largely covered by the output of the 12,000 MW of wind-generated electricity much of the time.

For those times when there are troughs in output that correlate with higher demand, we are fortunate to have 7500 MW of available peaking/backup power on the grid already installed, if you include the fast ramping Mortlake CCGT gas power plant project. Adding this to the 2400 MW of reliable power from 12,000 MW of wind capacity brings us up to 9300 MW of capacity for peak periods.

When we implement other demand reduction and demand management measures, we would never need to approach either of these figures.

In Germany, they built 12,000 MW of wind power (the same amount we are proposing for Victoria) from 2001 to the end of 2005.

In terms of scale of turbines, Denmark has 6500 wind turbines, and the country (excluding Greenland) is one fifth of the size of Victoria. If we had the same density of wind integration as Denmark, we would be hosting 32,500 turbines.

Victoria is known to have a better wind resource than Denmark in many areas throughout the state. Fortunately for us, we only need a small number that could be located in 10-40 sites, geographically distributed throughout the existing, upgraded and new electricity grid.

We would be using just 1.2% of our existing agricultural land to site 4000 turbines. The existing land use (such as horticulture, grain cropping, wool growing or dairying) would be maintained. In fact, the turbines and associated service infrastructure would take away just 1% of the land. That is 1% of 1.2%, a tiny proportion, all the while adding a valuable income stream to hundreds of farmers, most of whom are doing it tough from drought, a strong Australian dollar and depressed global prices.

The aluminium industry currently pays around 2.5 cents/kWh for its electricity while other large industrial users pay 8-10cents/kWh. Home owners, small businesses and other low volume users are effectively subsidising industrial users.

By creating a price signal for those currently receiving subsidised electricity we would create the incentive for many industries to use less power and adopt efficiency measures.

The aluminium industry would shut down if forced to pay a fair price for its power, thus significantly reducing both the state's annual consumption and peak power demands and resultant electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions.

Advanced demand management (which is different to overall demand side reduction) will have us using wind weather forecasts (we already use forecasts to provision generation capacity for the hot days of summer) to schedule loads that are not required instantly.

Energy efficiency measures, implemented across domestic, industrial and commercial sectors, can reduce our annual consumption by an additional 10-30%.

Large-scale infrastructure projects are being announced now to prop up the current coal-based electricity generation sector. Alternatively, the money directed towards these projects could be significantly helping to build an electricity distribution system run on renewable energy.

As environmentalists trying to direct policymakers, we must make decisions that are not only ethical, but that also take account of the economic reality that spending huge capital on so-called "transition options", such as coal power plant refurbishment or unproven nuclear technologies, will not only promote these non-renewable sources in a broader sense but will take money away from, and inevitably delay, the alternative zero emission options.

With the right support, renewables will be running the majority of our power grid within a decade. All we have to do is build public support and push our politicians into action. This task is a lot simpler than putting a man on the Moon, fighting a war on the other side of the world, or even making a computer, and its solutions can be implemented tomorrow.

If Australia had the same amount of wind power (20,000MW) installed on our best wind generating sites, we'd already be producing more than one quarter of our electricity from wind power. Combined with serious demand management and demand side reduction, this could represent around 50% of our overall electricity consumption. Denmark has a plan to fuel up to 75% of its electricity from wind power by 2025.

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