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We Need to Solve the Energy Trilemma Now

Credit: juanjo/Adobe

Credit: juanjo/Adobe

By Hugh Bradlow

The Finkel Review provides a roadmap to investment in clean energy technologies.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

We have three goals for our energy supply, two of which are uncontroversial: deliver electricity at the lowest cost to consumers and businesses, and ensure that the supply is reliable and adequate. The third consideration – to reduce (indeed remove) greenhouse emissions from our electricity generators – turns the rational discussion on energy into an emotional debate.

“Clean” energy (generally from sun or wind) is currently more expensive than “dirty” energy from burning oil, coal or gas, all of which release CO2 into the atmosphere.

There are people who don’t accept the need for clean energy generation because they believe, contrary to all the scientific evidence, that anthropogenic climate change is a myth or exaggeration. They are the clear minority.

If you accept the necessity to achieve all three goals, it leaves society with two choices:

  • require all generating sources, including fossil fuels, to emit zero (or almost zero) CO2. Renewables, biomass and nuclear do this naturally, but the fossil fuel generators would need to remove their emissions using technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
  • put a price on carbon emissions and other pollutants (e.g. sulphur, mercury) so that the true cost of the generation cycle, including waste disposal, is taken into account.

If we adopted one of these...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.