Australia: Report shows how to reach 100% renewable stationary energy by 2020

To download the full Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan click HERE (8.4MB). You can also download a 16-page synopsis HERE.

Hard copies can be purchased from the Melbourne Energy Institute.

July 14, 2010 -- Don't miss out on this cutting-edge research, which shows how Australia can reach 100% renewable energy within a decade, using technology that is commercially available right now.

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By Pablo Brait and Leigh Ewbank

Beyond Zero Emissions -- In April, the Australian government abandoned the severely flawed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme [a carbon trading scheme], the centrepiece of its national climate policy agenda.

After two defeats in the Senate, and unwilling to risk a double dissolution election on the issue, the Australian Labor Party backflipped and deferred its plan to establish a domestic emissions-trading scheme to 2013. At a time when decisive action is needed to avoid dangerous climate change our national climate policy is at a standstill.

Australia desperately needs a new approach. We need a policy agenda that acknowledges the urgency of the situation and accepts the requirement of evidence-based emissions cuts identified by climate science. We need a circuit breaker to reinvigorate the debate and spur action.

On June 22,  2010, at Parliament House in Canberra, Beyond Zero Emissions outlined such an approach with the launch the Zero Carbon Australia -- Stationary Energy Plan—a detailed blueprint for transitioning Australia's stationary energy sector to 100 per cent renewable sources by 2020. The report, published in collaboration with the University of Melbourne Energy Institute, is set to spark a debate about Australia's energy present and future, and more broadly, what constitutes credible climate policy.

The Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) report is the culmination of 12 months of pro bono work by engineers, scientists and postgraduate university students, performing the research that no Australian government has been prepared to undertake. The result is a truly innovative collaboration the likes of which has never been seen before in Australia. It is a true failure of leadership that our elected representatives have not developed a comprehensive transition plan for the energy sector even though it is at the heart of climate change mitigation efforts. Instead it has been left to a group of concerned citizens to pick up the slack.

Is it possible for Australia to power its homes, office buildings, and factories without adversely affecting our climate? The answer is yes.

The ZCA plan presents a carefully considered analysis of the energy technologies, industrial capacity, and investment required to repower Australia. The report shows that Australia can replace fossil-fuel baseload electricity using commercially available renewable energy technology, with the additional investment required equal to about one cup of coffee per person per day over the ten year transition. Our researchers have found that a 60/40 mix of concentrated solar thermal power and large-scale wind developments combined with an upgraded grid and comprehensive energy efficiency measures can reliably supply Australia's electricity needs.

Concentrated solar thermal power is the crucial renewable energy technology that will help Australia transition. Power stations are really glorified kettles. You need an energy source to boil water, so the steam can turn a turbine. Coal-fired power stations do this by burning coal. Nuclear power stations use nuclear fission. Solar thermal power stations concentrate the sun's rays and store this energy as heat, to be used for boiling water day or night. Torresol Energy's Gemasolar plant under construction in Spain will deliver power 24 hours a day with the same baseload production characteristics as a conventional coal plant. Next time you hear someone say that the sun doesn't shine at night, tell them it doesn't matter.

Australia is a sun soaked continent, yet the great potential to power our economy from solar sources is unrealised. It should shock Australians that there is currently no operating baseload solar power anywhere in our wide brown land. Even though Australia has the best solar resources of any developed country, it is Spain that has 800 megawatts equivalent of operating solar thermal plants and $20 billion worth of projects in the pipeline to 2013. In the 1980s Australia was at the forefront of solar technology. With intelligent climate and energy policy we can regain our leadership position, create good jobs and reduce our contributions to climate change.

The ZCA plan represents a radical shift from previous policy efforts that focus on pricing carbon "pollution". In contrast, the ZCA plan emphasises the rapid deployment of renewable energy technologies and the development of a 21st century grid infrastructure. The litmus test for credible climate policy will be whether or not it encourages the rapid deployment of renewable energy in Australia, not simply impose a price on carbon and hope for the best. Unlike emissions-trading schemes with offset provisions that delay action on renewable energy, the ZCA plan shows that we can start work today. The faster we build renewable energy capacity in Australian the faster the prices will fall, helping to make clean energy competitive with coal.

It's time for the Australian parliament to implement policies to repower our economy with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020. The findings of the ZCA plan show that there are no technical or economic barriers to a repowered Australia. The major barriers are now political. The Australian public needs to get behind this vision and Australian governments at all levels must shake off the vested interests in the fossil fuel lobby and make this a priority.

[Pablo Brait is director of strategic planning and Leigh Ewbank is director of public policy at Beyond Zero Emissions. This article first appeared at the ABC's Drum.]


Hopefully the Australian Government will back this proposal and then other countries can start following its lead. Climate change is a huge problem facing the world and any step that we can take to use renewable engery is a positive one. When facing a problem of this scale, the cost involved really doesn't matter because of the long-term benefits to the environment.

I fully agree. However, replacing one source of energy with another is not enough. We need to reduce use. We need to redesign society to eliminate the need for growth. (In nature, the only things that grow without limit are fatal: cancer, euthrophication of bodies of water, etc.)

Congrats to Australia for making progress and getting beyond the political quagmire. Also, I am just not starting to hear/read people using the term "renewable stationary energy" I guess to clarify between power users connected/not connected to the grid?


Posted on 12 Sep 2010

Launch event including addresses by Bob Carr, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Ludlam and Beyond Zero Emissions

Go to

Thanks to Maryella Hatfield from The Future Makers & UWS Media Production Students; Ben Weaver & Matt Grech (School of Communication Arts, UWS) for providing footage of the event.