Ramping up solar and wind projects could slash Australian emissions by 80 per cent
17 March 2021 at 4:58 pm
But experts say government must step up
Doubling Australia’s solar and wind power projects could see a reduction in emissions by 80 per cent by 2040, new academic analysis suggests.
The paper, published by researchers at the Australian National University (ANU), found that fossil fuel energy could be wiped by 2040 if sustained solar and wind rates were deployed at 14 Gigawatts per year, double what it currently is.
Paper author, Professor Andrew Blakers, told Pro Bono News that doubling wind and solar projects would not be difficult considering how cheap this type of energy was to produce.
“In other words, we can make deep greenhouse emissions cuts at low or negative cost,” Blakers said.
The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory found that from the beginning of 2020 through to September, Australia’s emissions fell 4.4 per cent. Much of this decline was related to reduced transport emissions during the pandemic, but emissions in 2021 are expected to pick back up again.
Blakers said that currently, private companies and individuals were leading the way in wind and solar, but that government needed to step in to help connect these projects from within states and across the country.
“When it comes to the transmission of energy, which traverses hundreds of kilometers and hundreds of farming properties, it’s too hard for an individual company to work through,” he said.
“And we badly need, in particular federal, but also state government assistance to enhance transmission.”
Across the country, there are a number of community-led renewable power projects that are seeing small townships harness renewables. One example is Yackandandah, which is currently on track to power the town with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2022.
But Blakers said that more communities would be able to do this if renewable energy transmission networks were stronger within states and across the country.
“Trying to get close to 100 per cent solar and wind in a small area is difficult because if you have poor weather, you’re going to run out of electricity,” he said.
“But if you are connected strongly to the whole state and then several other states as well, then you can import electricity when you need it, and when you’ve got good weather, you can export it.”
Similarly to investment in the NBN to increase the speed of internet, or investment in new roads to reduce traffic bottlenecks in suburban areas, Blakers said it was critical that the federal government invested in the future of electricity.
“Australia can take pride in the fact that we’re installing by far the largest amount of solar and wind per capita in the world… but we could do so much better if the government would just un-bottleneck transmission,” he said.
He added that if the government did not cooperate, it would be up to other countries to step in.
“If the federal government stands in the way, then Australia will not reduce its emissions,” he said.
“And under those circumstances, I really hope that the European Union and perhaps the United States and other governments erect strong trade barriers against Australia to force Australia to play its proper role.”
Europe, China, Japan, Korea, the USA and many other countries have pledged zero emissions by 2050-60. But while all state and territory governments in Australia have committed to zero emissions in 2050, the Commonwealth government is yet to do so.
The Commonwealth’s current target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.