As Australia welcomes its first female Prime Minister, an ambitiously comprehensive new plan that sees the country generating 100% of its energy needs from wind, solar and other renewables in 10 years time has sparked a national debate after being released earlier this week.
“The world stands on the precipice of significant change,” notes the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan. “Climate scientists predict severe impacts from even the lowest estimates of global warming. The search for dwindling oil reserves is having dramatic social and environmental impacts. A rational response to the problem demands a rapid shift to a zero fossil fuel, zero-emissions future.”
The plan, published by an independent non-profit organisation, says that Australia’s future energy needs can be reliably met by combining energy efficiencies with a massive expansion of wind power and a shift to Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) with molten salt storage. The two power-generating technologies would be backed up by biomass and existing hydro. The plan predicted that grid electricity demand in Australia will be 40% higher in 2020 than today.
An investment of about $37 billion a year to implement the plan over the next decade would be equivalent to 3% of GDP. About $72 billion would be invested in wind power, while $190 billion would be earmarked for CST.
Wind would supply 40% of the increased electricity demand with 50,000 MW of installed wind turbine capacity, while CST would make up 60%. Approximately 8,000 6MW turbines would be required. The new power plants would be located at different sites around the nation. There would be 23 sites for wind and 12 sites for CST.
A national grid would also be created at a cost of $92 billion, the plan says, adding 80,000 construction jobs and more than 45,000 permanent jobs would be created.
Saying that Australia’s energy, security and economic needs can be transformed, the plan notes the nation has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world.
“What is required to make this happen is leadership from policymakers and society, with firm decisions made quickly that will allow this transition to occur.”