Australia can go 100% renewable energy by 2030

If a country so dependent on coal can do it, we all can

Australia is a big producer and user of coal. Black and brown coal represented over 75% of the country's electric power generation in 2008-2009, and vast quantities of the black stuff is exported out of the country, mostly to China. But it doesn't have to be this way. A peer-reviewed study by researchers at the University of New South Wales shows that the country could go 100% renewable by 2030 if a price of $50 to $100/tonne was put on carbon, making the country's vast wind and solar resources more than competitive with fossil fuels.

Australia electricity sourcesABARES/Screen capture

Running simulations based on power demand and supply data for 2010, the researchers found wind would contribute most in a switch to fully renewable energy. It would account for between 46 and 59 per cent, while solar PV and concentrated solar would supply 15-20 per cent each, and hydro and biofuel-based gas generators the remainder. (source)

Putting a price on carbon would be an effective way to fight climate change, and it makes sense if we consider that the fossil fuel industry has received massive subsidies for decades and that all the environmental damage that it does is not included in the price of its products (oil, gas, coal...).

And if the cost of renewables drops faster than in the numbers used in the study, a real possibility according to the authors of the paper who have tried to be conservative with their assumptions, then the price of carbon could be even lower and we'd still see renewables be less expensive than the dirty stuff.

The biggest challenge is to get the social and political will to implement a carbon price high enough to make these changes take place. Without it, everything will move much slower. Even putting a price on carbon in a revenue-neutral way - raise money on carbon, cut taxes elsewhere - would help because it would shift demand to the comparatively low-carbon sources of power. This doesn't have to be something that hits people in the wallet. It's about making the fossil fuel industry pay for its 'externalities'.

Weather Map AustraliaAustralia's Bureau of Meteorology/Public Domain

Via UNSW (pdf), WA Today

See also: 300,000 mirrors: World's largest thermal solar plant (377MW) under construction in the Mojave

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