Carbon Budgets And Renewable Energy

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While we may be patting ourselves on the back for reaching one million solar power systems installed throughout Australia; much more needs to be done to rein in burgeoning carbon emissions.

According to The Climate Institute, Australia must use a long-term carbon budget approach in order to properly pitch in towards fighting the climate change battle.

At this point, it appears we still have our heads firmly in the sand on the issue. While solar uptake in Australia has been remarkable, a paper just released by The Climate Institute states if the average Australian consumes the same as the average person in other advanced economies, then over the next four decades, we can only release 8 billion tonnes carbon pollution.

However, at current emission levels this budget would be consumed in around 15 years.

A major contributing factor eating into our “carbon budget” is electricity generation – but it doesn’t have to be that way. A recent University of NSW study shows a carbon price of between $50 and $100 per tonne would make coal-fired and gas-fired electricity generation less economical than renewable electricity.

But what about reliability of supply?

“There is no need for any inflexible base-load power stations,” says Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf, of the Institute of Environmental Studies at UNSW and lead author of the study. “We can balance fluctuating renewable energy sources with flexible power stations, such as hydro, gas turbines and concentrated solar thermal power with thermal storage.”

Under a  minimum 2030 cost scenario, a large contribution would come from wind power – 46 to 59 per cent of annual electricity generation. Solar photovoltaic, and concentrated solar thermal electricity with thermal storage would contribute 15 to 20 percent each, with existing hydro and gas turbines burning biofuels filling in the gaps.

The results of the UNSW peer-reviewed study are to be published in the journal Energy Policy.