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Renewable Economics

Green energy

It could be possible to shift the entire electricity system to a mix of renewables by 2020.

By Ian Lowe

Growth in GDP could pay for the entire electricity system to be converted to a mix of renewables by 2020.

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University.

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

A new report and a bizarre speech by a leading politician both put the spotlight on energy policy recently. The report by Zero Carbon Australia was an important contribution.

A 1992 study by the Department of Resources and Energy concluded that Australia could get all its electricity from a mix of renewable energy technologies by 2030. Since that report there have been significant advances in supply technologies. Importantly, there are now storage systems that deal with the problem of intermittent availability of sunlight or wind.

The ZCA report showed that solar thermal power systems with molten salt storage don’t just enable round-the-clock supply, but also deal with longer periods of reduced sunlight. The startling conclusion was that it could be possible to shift the entire electricity system to a mix of renewables by 2020!

It would require a significant investment but, as Dr David Crossley calculated, it would only amount to about 3% of GDP each year for a decade, after which the power needs for the next 30 years or more would be almost cost-free. That really would be an investment in the future and a way of ensuring that future generations are able to live in security and comfort.

To put 3% of GDP in context, it is the about the same as the annual growth expected by Treasury forecasts. In other words, we could fund it simply by...

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