Renewable Energy Could be Cheaper Than Coal

Australian electricity grid photo

A report compiled for Australia's peak scientific research body, the CSIRO, has come up with the startling conclusion that contrary to the common view, electricity costs to Australia's most populated city, Sydney, may work out less, if more renewable energy was deployed, instead of building traditional coal-fired power stations.

Picking up on the study, titled Meeting NSW Electricity Needs in a Carbon Constrained World, the Sydney Morning Herald report that "building baseload power using coal was much more expensive than focusing on energy efficiency and tapping into a network of small "co-generation" power sources sprinkled in the suburbs."And this, without even calculating the added costs that flow from Australia operating an emissions trading scheme.

The CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship commissioned the Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the Universiity of Technology, Sydney (UTS) look at the country's energy sector to highlight means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The university concluded that "building a new coal-fired power station to meet demand before 2020 would cumulatively cost up to $30 billion, while building the infrastructure to supply the grid from more local low-emissions sources plants would total about $27 billion over the next decade."

Energy efficiency is a key element of the reports findings. New South Wales could with increased energy efficiency see an annual energy reduction of about 7,000 Gigawatt hours (GWh). Across the Australia at total energy demand reduction of 50,445 could be realised, which would see a saving in 81 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions with corresponding savings in capital expenditure just shy of $12,000,000,000 AUD.

The report came out in the same week that the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal handed energy providers utilities the right to up energy bills by about 20%.

But it is not only money that will be saved but greenhouse gas emission as well, as a core conclusion of the report is that:

The maximum Distributed Energy scenario considered (energy efficiency, cogeneration, demand side response and reducing coal capacity by 1000 MW) saves 7 million tonnes of emissions and $0.5 billion compared to business as usual.

Meeting NSW Electricity Needs in a Carbon Constrained World (PDF).

Photo: Warren McLaren / INOV8
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