By Lois Levy
Recently two public presentations were made on the Gold Coast about responses to climate change which can change the way Australians think about energy supply and substantially reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The first presentation was by Ed Parker from Beyond Zero Emissions about their plan for Australia to supply its energy needs entirely from renewable energy. The second was by Senator Christine Milne who outlined the components of the Clean Energy Package which is an essential part of the Federal Government carbon tax and incentives scheme legislation which recently passed the Lower House and will go to the Upper House shortly.
Beyond Zero Emissions – Stationary Renewable Energy Plan
Beyond Zero scientists have undertaken research which demonstrates that there is sufficient wind and solar energy to achieve 100% of renewable energy in Australian within 10 years. This plan has been presented to governments and community members around Australia and is endorsed by major conservation organisations such as the Australian Conservation Foundation and Greenpeace. Other renewable sources such as tidal and geothermal can contribute later when the technological issues are resolved.
Beyond Zero Emissions is now working on other plans to reduce carbon emissions. These include a national transport plan; sustainable building industry; sustainable land use plans and industrial processes.
The technology for 100% renewable energy already exists and is commercially available to meet base-load supply. Renewable energy is frequently criticised as not being suitable for base load 24 hour supply, but Beyond Zero Emissions disputes this and believes firmly the technology is here to be used now. They contend that there is no need to keep on using fossil fuels which are the cause of global warming and state that solar energy can supply 60% of the energy needed by Australia. The technology consists of a semi-circular array of mirrors directing sun energy to a tower. There are two large tanks at the base of the tower which contain salt which can be heated. The cool salt is pumped from the cold tank up the tower where it is heated by the solar energy and becomes molten. The molten salt is then pumped down the tower to the hot storage tank. It acts like a storage battery for heat (not electricity) and the heat can be used at any time to drive the turbines to produce electricity.
Beyond Zero Emissions believes that 12 solar regions around the country would be sufficient to supply Australia’s energy needs in conjunction with wind energy. This would amount to 600,000 heliostats and 30 concrete towers.
The plan uses more energy, but since this is all renewable this is not a problem for carbon emissions. Global investment in renewable energy has increased 30% in the last 10 years.China has a target of generating 150,000 MW from RE. Economies of scale are necessary to contain the costs and are based on medium population growth. It would cost 3% of Australia’s GDP to achieve a safe climate and this compares favourably to the sums spent on gambling in Australia. Initially it is capital intensive, but if the $1.6 billion subsidies to the fossil fuel industries were redirected to renewable energy, the cost would be negligible.