The Australian Government’s Renewable Energy Target scheme is aiming for 23.5% of Australia’s energy to come from clean sources by 2020. This means generating 33,000 gigawatt hours from renewable sources like solar, wind or hydro. Although this is an admirable target, is Australia really doing enough?
Why Do We Need Renewable Energy?
One of the main answers lies in its name. It’s renewable. It means generating energy from natural resources such as wind, solar and hydro. For years we’ve been reliant on coal-generated energy, but as a finite resource we must assume it won’t last forever.
The other reason is climate change. There’s a constant debate over the existence of climate change. However just this month in Australia we’ve seen Queensland suffering extreme flooding while Tasmania battles bushfires. Whichever side of the climate change fence you sit on, there’s no denying that weather conditions are becoming more extreme. If it’s not a result of climate change, it’s still hard to argue the case that renewable energy is a bad thing.
Can Australia Reach 100% Renewable Energy?
The short answer to this question is ‘Yes’. The real-world answer is a lot more complex. Iceland for example is 100% powered by renewable energy. And that’s a country with very little sunlight. Other countries like Norway, Zambia, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Costa Rica are very close to 100%.
Many experts have suggested our climate and vast land area make it entirely possible for Australia to run on renewables. Between hydro, wind and solar, we could even be in a position to export power overseas.
What’s Slowing the Transition to Renewable Energy?
Again, this is a complex answer, but politics plays a huge role. The mining industry is huge in Australia and provides a lot of jobs. That’s always going to be one argument, however the infrastructure required for renewables would also create jobs.
The other is money. There’s a huge cost involved to build hydro stations, wind farms and solar capture points. The Government would need to bear the bulk of this cost, so something else would suffer. Perhaps investment in renewables would scare the mining industry away too quickly, leaving a big hole in the economy.
In the case of solar and wind, there’s also the issue of energy storage. Large scale lithium-ion batteries are still extremely expensive, but they would be necessary to provide a backup store of power across the nation.
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