renewable energy

Readers may have noticed that Australia is in the midst of an energy war. On one side are right-wing commentators attacking renewable energy at every turn. On the other side are renewables advocates, quick to retaliate, sometimes without considering the whole story.

The Victorian government announced on March 14 a $20 million tender, to install up to 80MW of grid-scale energy storage by 2018.

It invited proposals from batteries, pumped hydro, compressed air, flywheel, and solar thermal technologies.

But its deadlines, of 30MW expected to be installed by next summer and 50MW by the following summer, are impossible for two of those technologies to meet.

Pumped hydro facilities take several years to build, because dams, tunnels and pipelines would need to be built.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should hang her head in shame. She has proven once again that the word “Labor” in “Australian Labor Party” has no connection with the interests of working people in Australia — or anywhere else.

Palaszczuk headed a delegation to India on March 17 to underscore her government’s support for the Adani company’s proposed Carmichael thermal coalmine. If it is given the go ahead, it will be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It would be the first for the Galilee Basin, and it would open the door to more.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), electricity supply will be threatened as early as next year by “shortfalls in gas”, or failing that, households may face cuts to their gas supply

Generating electricity using renewable energy is now cheaper than using fossil fuels, but mining companies, banks and governments in Australia continue to invest significantly more in coal, oil and gas than wind and solar. 

The list of things renewable energy can be blamed for received a creative contribution from little-known Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly on November 7 when he linked renewable energy with child drownings.

His argument went like this: environmentalists promote renewable energy policies; renewable energy will drive up the cost of electricity; public swimming pools require electricity to filter and heat; higher electricity prices mean pools will have to either cut swimming lessons or charge more for them; fewer children will learn to swim; therefore, more children will drown.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced on October 25 that last year, thanks to cost reductions and significant policy support in key countries, renewables have surpassed coal to become the largest source of installed power in the world. This has prompted the IEA to significantly boost its five-year forecast for renewable energy growth.

Wind and solar may be leading the way in Australia’s renewable energy race, but there’s another contender lurking in the nation’s oceans.

[Ross Garnaut is a Professor of Economics at the Australian National University. In 2007 he was appointed to examine the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy and recommend medium to long-term policies and policy frameworks to improve the prospects for sustainable prosperity. The Garnaut Climate Change Review was finalised on September 30, 2008, with an update released on May 31, 2011. This is a speech given by Garnaut to the renewable energy summit hosted by the South Australian government on October 6.]

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Power is gradually returning to South Australia after wild storms blew across the state last night, but some areas could be offline for days. The storm — associated with heavy rain, lightning, and severe winds — damaged transmission lines that carry electricity from power generators to people, causing a state-wide blackout.

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill told ABC radio “the system operated as it was meant to operate”.

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