It is a very fair question. With over 11.5 million solar panels on Australian rooftops, why are our Co2 emissions still so high?
Surely, with so many people turning towards solar solutions our emissions should be going down. Unfortunately, there are some large reasons why our emissions are actually rising and not falling that will need to be addressed if we are to treat our carbon emissions and climate change seriously including:
We still rely heavily on coal
Despite greater education, rebates to incentivise the takeup of solar panels and a cultural shift towards renewables, Australia is still highly dependent on coal. Over 60 per cent of all of our electricity comes from coal-fired power stations and another 15 per cent comes from gas, so we are burning through fossil fuels at a very high rate.
On top of that, while solar power options continue to surge, other forms of energy and renewables are largely being pushed aside.
We have no nuclear power in Australia and bans on uranium mining remain in place around the country which prevents us from using this as a form of energy or exporting it to countries that do use nuclear power. We also have extremely limited hydroelectricity projects with only 4 per cent of our energy coming from this form of renewable energy. Other forms of renewable production like geothermal and harnessing energy from the waves of our oceans are also in their extreme infancy and are not likely to produce meaningful volumes of clean energy in the near future.
The adoption of gas means our emissions are actually rising
From 2018 to 2019 Australia’s carbon emissions rose by 0.06 per cent despite a large takeup of solar and battery solutions around the country. Why? LPG gas is being turned to for more of our power needs.
Any gains we made from reducing this rate through our energy production was cancelled out by the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry with emissions from LPG rising 4.7 tonnes in that same year.
Exports still mean emissions
Australia is the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil fuels, primarily coal, behind only Russia and Saudi Arabia. That means we export more Co2 through fossil fuels than nations like Iraq, Iran and other Middle Eastern nations that are well known for their exports.
According to a report released by The Australia Institute, we export 1.1 billion tonnes of Co2 every year, the vast majority of that in coal exports. This 1.1 billion tonne of Co2 does not count against our total emissions, though.
Australia Institute Climate and Energy Director Richie Merzian said that should change so we could get a better picture of the emissions we are contributing towards so we can shape our goals and our future.
Beyond Zero Emissions have previously estimated that if this Australian coal was linked to our Co2 emissions our global contribution would be 4 per cent, making us the sixth-largest contributor to climate change.