Australia moving wrong way on renewables

May 20, 2011
Protest outside Victoria's Hazelwood coal-fired power plant, October 10. Photo: Takver/Flickr

Our society is heading in the wrong direction. According to a new “Australia’s Electricity Generation Mix 1960-2009” report commissioned by Environment Victoria, the proportion of Australia’s electricity generated by renewable energy has fallen from 19% in 1960 to 7% in 2008.

Because Australia today generates 10 times the amount of electricity as it did in 1960, coal-fired electricity generation has increased by more than 1200%.

The Gillard Labor government’s carbon tax/emissions trading scheme won’t reverse this increasing dependence on fossil fuels.

Resources and energy minister Martin Ferguson and many other Labor ministers have made it clear that the real objective of this scheme will be to boost a greater shift to gas.

Gas-fired electricity has increased its share from 1% in 1970 to 16% in 2008, said the Environment Victoria report.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, which projects gas to be the “fastest growing fossil fuel over the period to 2029–30”, predicts that gas will more than double its share in electricity generation to 36.8% by 2029-30.

Campaigns director for Environment Victoria Mark Wakeham said on May 16: “For all of the hand-wringing about climate change over the past decade we’ve seen massive growth in emissions from coal generation while renewable energy has flat-lined.

The problem is that the profit-driven capitalists who make the decisions about what to invest in, with money that really isn’t theirs to gamble with, are investing in fossil fuels instead of renewable energy.

If we leave this choice to the capitalists, they are going to invest (with the help of generous public subsidies) billions more in this fossil fuel dominated energy industry. A recent government report estimates this dirty investment could be up to $240 billion by 2030.

This is criminal, especially as Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has produced a report that shows that it is entirely feasible to shift to 100% renewable stationary energy in just 10 years with a total investment of about $370 billion.

BZE’s plan makes sense. The capitalists’ choice to keep us hooked on fossil fuels doesn’t — except to satisfy their profit-lust.

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