What If Fossil Fuel Based Electricity Was Free?

Free electricity can be generated by solar power; but in some places in the world, even fossil fuel based electricity is free. However, the impact on carbon emissions is staggering.

Skyrocketing electricity prices are seeing a bigger chunk of people’s pay packets going towards powering their homes – and the cost increases for energy are set to continue in most countries, including Australia.

Some are buffering against the price rises by installing solar power systems or implementing further energy efficiency strategies.

In the country of Qatar, located on the northeasterly coast the Arabian Peninsula; its citizens don’t have to worry about power bills or energy efficient appliances as their electricity is free.

Much of Qatar’s electricity generation comes from natural gas – the supposedly greener alternative to coal. Qatar’s proven natural gas reserves are approximately 25.4 trillion cubic metres, which is almost 14% of the world’s known natural gas reserves.

Even given natural gas’s reported green street cred, a claim that is being questioned, the nation of 1.4 million people has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world; almost three times that of the USA.

Data from the World Bank shows in 2007, Qatar’s per capita emissions were around 54 tonnes, the USA’s 19.34 tonnes and Australia, 17.74 tonnes.

According to Wikipedia, the electricity generating capacity of Qatar this year will have increased to six times the level it had in 1995.

It makes you wonder how different the emissions story would be in Qatar if all its citizens were instead provided with free solar panels, or free electricity generated by large scale solar farms.

One thing is clear, cheap or free fossil fuel based power comes with a hidden and hefty price tag in the long run in terms of damage to the environment that sustains us – a price our children and their children will be paying.