Monday, October 29, 2012

Why isn't Australia renewable energy superpower?

Australia is yet to seriously enter global clean energy race, even despite having abundant renewable energy resources at its disposal. The total renewable energy potential is more than enough to satisfy country’s entire energy needs but only a negligible percentage of it is being actually used.

In 2011, renewable energy accounted for little over 5% of total energy consumption in Australia with biomass being the most important renewable energy source in the country.  Having abundant renewable energy resources without properly utilizing it means very little, and Australia is the perfect example of it.

The main reason why Australia isn't focusing more on renewable energy development is coal. Australia has huge coal reserves, and coal, despite being the dirtiest fuel of them all, is still the cheapest energy option for Australia. The heavy dependence on coal has turned Australia into one of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters.

Coal still rules in Australia in terms of energy consumption and electricity generation.

This reliance on coal will hopefully decrease in years to come, and one of the best ways for this to happen is no doubt harnessing more solar energy. Why? Because Australia has the best solar insolation values of all continents, therefore solar energy is really the most logical renewable energy option for Australia, especially if solar panel prices continue to decline rapidly as they have been in the last few years.

Solar energy sector is yet to achieve its full expansion in Australia, even despite the supportive clean energy policy and favorable feed-in-tariffs. Therefore it still remains to be seen whether Australia will be able to achieve its clean energy goal, which includes 20% of total electricity coming from renewable energy sources by 2020.

The general public certainly wants more renewable energy because climate change has already started showing its scary face in Australia, mostly in form of severe droughts.

The public support is there but Australian government needs to do lot more in order to turn Australia into renewable energy superpower. The remaining factors are stronger clean energy policy and bigger renewable energy funds. The combination of these two factors is the only way to attract more investment in Australia.

The Australia needs to realize that more renewable energy does not only mean environmental benefits but it also leads to economic growth, especially in form of new green jobs.

According to the 2008 study by Greenpeace Australia could increase share of renewables in energy consumption to 40% by 2020, and in the process completely phase out existing power plants, without the danger of job losses. This is certainly something to think about.