More than 150 people packed into a Wollongong university lecture theatre on October 21 for the Wollongong launch of the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan (ZCA2020).
Launches of the plan in Melbourne and Sydney that attracted about 700 and 1000 people respectively, and on October 15 it won the Mercedes-Benz Australian Environmental Research Award.
The plan is the product of a collaboration between the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute and Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).
BZE executive director Matthew Wright — who recently won the environment minister's Young Environmentalist of the Year Award — presented the main aspects of the plan. He outlined how Australia could meet all its energy needs from renewables within 10 years, using technologies that are commercially available.
Wright said: “Our research shows that baseload renewable energy is now available and that Australia can get started building a renewable energy system, right now, today.”
ZCA2020 shows that this could be achieved with a mix of solar thermal with storage and wind.
He said the timeframe for the plan was determined by the latest climate science and the scale of the transition required.
“We must repower our economy with 100% renewable energy, to set ourselves up for energy security and prosperity”, he said.
Because Wollongong is located in the middle of the Southern Coalfields, discussion focussed on the impact of the plan on jobs. Wright explained that implementing ZCA2020 would create thousands of green jobs — more jobs than would be lost through abandoning outmoded fossil fuel industries.
Modelling in the plan shows that at least 80,000 jobs would be created in installation during peak construction, 30,000 in manufacturing, and 45,000 in operations and maintenance. This compares to the current 20,000 jobs in coal and gas energy production that would be lost over the same period, as a result of the transition.
Money for these jobs would be freed up through fuel-switching. The plan eliminates the cost of coal and gas for electricity.
The Wollongong launch of ZCA2020 was organised by the Wollongong Climate Action Network and the University of Wollongong Environment Collective.