Australia is blessed with abundant renewable energy resources and access to advanced renewables technology, which means we don’t need to remain hitched to polluting fossil fuels. Clean renewable energy options will create a huge job market, and many benefits for communities.
Renewable energy sources include solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, wind energy and bioenergy. Over one million homes in Australia now have rooftop solar power, and concentrating solar thermal, which can deliver 24-hour solar power, is on
the horizon. Wind farms pump enough electricity into the grid to power cities.
An Australian transition
According to the energy experts, shifting to 100 percent renewable energy is both technically viable and affordable. Studies by the think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (PDF), and follow up studies from the Australian Energy Market Operator (PDF) and University of New South Wales (PDF) confirm the technical feasibility of renewable energy. In terms of cost, the 100 percent renewable energy system is cheaper than the fossil fuel based business-as-usual approach.
Research from the University of New South Wales found that renewables can be as reliable as ‘baseload’ fossil fuels. A mix of renewable energy technologies located in geographically dispersed sites, combined with smart grid technology and energy storage will free Australia from polluting coal and gas-fired power stations.
Renewable energy in Victoria
Victoria is lucky to have many sites with excellent conditions for generating wind energy. It will be through harnessing the power of our wind that Victorians will make a big contribution to repowering Australia with renewables.
Unfortunately, in 2011 the Coalition State Government banned wind farms in the windiest parts of the state.
To date, the Coalition’s anti-wind farm planning laws have cost around $887 million in lost or stalled investment; 650 direct jobs lost or stalled in construction; 54 on-going jobs in management of wind farms; and 1408 indirectly associated (flow-on) jobs. The anti-wind farm laws have hamstrung our ability to follow the lead of South Australia.
South Australia is leading the nation with its renewable energy rollout. The state now meets 31 percent of its electricity demand from renewable energy sources. Wind farms are doing the heavy lifting, providing 27 percent, while the rapidly growing rooftop solar contributes 4 percent. South Australia is expected to reach 50 percent renewables in a decade.
Communities powering themselves
Most Australian governments have been slow of the mark when it comes to renewable energy. This has led to an emerging community energy movement.
In 2010, the Hepburn Wind farm became Australia’s first community-owned renewable energy project. There are now over 40 communities who are striving to build their own renewable energy projects–from local wind farms to shared solar projects.
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