We’ve got the sun, wind and waves – and a knack for innovation. Anyone can see that Australia is the “lucky country” when it comes to renewable energy. But beyond the façade, there are solid studies to back up the commercial and technical case.
Is it anything more than hype and blue sky thinking when people tout the prospect of high penetration renewable energy in Australia? We’ve heard talk about reaching 50%… 80%… 100% renewables by 2020, 2030 or 2050… and sceptics may question how much of these claims is rhetoric and how much is practically feasible.
A host of recent studies by reputable organisations have shown that the science, commerce and logistics of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables in Australia truly stack up. And Australian businesses can sit up and take notice.
Substantiated through studies: Recent reports from these reputable organisations are just a few that have modelled the commercial, technical and practical case for renewable energy in Australia.
A recent report by the University of Technology’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, commissioned in Sydney by GetUp and Solar Citizens, demonstrated that increasing Australia’s energy mix to 100% renewables by 2050 would result in $90bn of savings compared to the business as usual scenario.
The study considered two renewable scenarios, as well as the baseline case with high dependence on fossil fuels. One was a scenario for almost complete electricity generation from renewables by 2030. The other one – more ambitious – considered all electricity, transport and heating being covered by renewables by 2050.
According to the paper, savings from fuel costs alone would cover 110% of the capital required. All up, with $650bn investment in renewables returning $740bn of savings, the commercial prospects for clean energy are more than rhetoric.
The engineering/science of large-scale renewables in Australia works too, according to WA group Sustainable Energy Now’s modelling which is based on their newly developed SIREN tool, an open source software that allows users to simulate renewable energy scenarios for WA.*
The smart folks at SEN have not only developed SIREN but put it through its paces with some modelling of their own, and out of this number-crunching comes a technically and commercially optimised scenario: 85% renewables in WA. There are respectable results on the 100% case too, though not quite as lucrative, according to SEN’s model.
With the slew of studies and models painting a strong argument for widespread renewables in Australia – and the above is just a handful – the obvious next question is, “How do we get there?”
The Clean Energy Council’s (CEC) Power Shift report presents a blueprint for a 21st century energy system, giving us a pathway to this commercially justified, technically viable future within our reach: an optimised energy mix vastly composed of renewable sources.
But pathways can be sketched at all sorts of levels, high to low. There are global strategies, like the framework and various commitments from the Paris talks. There are the national policies and papers like the CEC publication above. And then there is the individual uptake by Australian business.
That’s where you fit in!
You’re part of a compelling picture of clean energy in Australia. Each investment in PV, wind and so on – as long as it’s well-considered with a sound financial, technical, social, environmental, etc. case behind it – is a step on this journey, embodying the clean energy movement that’s bigger than each individual project.
All this and YOU?
What do these high level studies mean for your investment in clean energy? That it’s justified. That this is the way the world is moving, and this is the direction that Australia is taking. That you’re in good company – smart company – and the time to capitalise on these opportunities is now!
*Nerdy types like me: SIREN’s a great tool. Download the package and you can plonk a 500 kW solar plant here, a 2 MW wind farm there, tweaking the parameters to your heart’s content. Software inputs draw from real data on energy loads in WA, SWIS network maps and climate resources. Check it out!