Australia's power could be all renewable

June 22, 2010 at 1:49 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, June 22 (UPI) -- Renewable sources could provide all of Australia's energy by 2020, says a new report.

That compares with Canberra's aim for 20 percent of the nation's power to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The report, launched Tuesday by climate change campaign group Zero Carbon Australia, provides a detailed blueprint for transitioning Australia's stationary energy sector to 100 percent renewable energy sources within a decade.

The 10-year road map suggested in the Zero Carbon study focuses on technologies currently available such as wind and large-scale thermal power.

The authors propose a mix of 60 percent of energy from solar thermal with molten salt storage and 40 percent from wind power. Solar thermal plants are designed to store heat for nighttime when there is no sun.

But achieving the 100 percent renewables goal would depend on a $92 billion upgrade that would create a single national electricity grid linking the renewable projects to the city and urban areas. The authors liken that amount to about one cup of coffee per person each day during the 10-year transition.

The approach set forth in the study, to be published by the University of Melbourne's Energy Institute, "can win the hearts and minds of Australians and put us on track to restore a safe climate," said Matthew Wright, executive director of Beyond Zero Emissions in a release.

Coal-fired power stations, known for high carbon dioxide emissions, now generate about 80 percent of Australia's electricity. Wind and solar power account for less than 1 percent.

In an editorial published Tuesday on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Web site, Beyond Zero Emissions' Director of Strategic Planning Pablo Brait and Director of Public Policy Leigh Ewbank were critical of Canberra's policy initiatives that focus on "pricing carbon pollution."

"The litmus test for credible climate policy will be whether or not it encourages the rapid deployment of renewable energy in Australia, not simply impose a price on carbon and hope for the best," they wrote.

In April Australia's emission trading scheme, aimed at cutting Australia's emissions by 5 percent of 2000 levels by 2020, was put on hold until 2013 or later.

It would have taxed high emission-producing companies and offset the charges with free emissions permits and financial compensation.

"Unlike emissions-trading schemes with offset provisions that delay action on renewable energy, the ZCA plan shows that we can start work today. The faster we build renewable energy capacity in Australia the faster the prices will fall, helping to make clean energy competitive with coal," Brait and Ewbank wrote.

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