Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Electric Vehicle Challenge

By Ian Lowe

Installations of solar and wind energy will need to maintain their pace to ensure that the coming demand for electric vehicles won’t be powered by fossil fuels.

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

There is good news and bad news about the Australian electricity system. The bad news is that total electricity demand, which had been stable for a few years, has increased significantly in the past year. The environmental impact of this growth has been compounded by a larger share of the power coming from coal-fired generators. Down to 72% in 2013–14 when we had a price on carbon dioxide emitted, coal accounted for 76% of the generation last year.

The other worrying factor is that the growth in electricity use is almost entirely due to the coal seam gas industry in Queensland, a combination of the power being used to develop the gas fields and the need to liquefy the gas for export. It’s been projected that the coal seam gas industry will add about 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year to Australia’s emissions when it becomes fully operational.

The good news is that the harnessing of solar energy continues to expand. Curtin University’s sustainability professor Peter Newman recently commented on the number of solar panels now being used in the south-west of Western Australia, covering the greater Perth region. About 20% of homes there now have solar cells on the roof, generating about 500 MW of peak power. This makes the combined power production “the largest power station in WA,” Newman said. The output of solar panels is equivalent to about 15% of...

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