It is technically feasible and affordable to replace all fossil fuel electricity with 100% renewable energy given the willpower and commitment to do so. A plan to do this has been developed and will be launched in Melbourne on 14 July 2010.
The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan (ZCA2020) is the end result of over 12 months work by a team of volunteers – engineers, scientists and postgraduate students – in Canberra and Melbourne.
It is a collaboration between the climate solutions think tank Beyond Zero Emissions, and the Future of Renewable Energy, University of Melbourne Energy Institute.
Developed by 50 technical experts, this plan is a detailed and costed blueprint for transitioning our stationary energy sector to 100% renewable energy in ten years. The technologies it is based on are available commercially now.
The plan shows that with a combination of energy efficiency, fuel-switching from gas and oil to electrified energy services, then using a combination of commercially available renewable energy technologies, Australia’s energy needs can be met with 100% renewables.
Social and political leadership is now required in order for the transition to begin.
Wind energy and Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) with Molten Salt Storage are the two primary technologies used, with some backup from biomass and existing hydro. Modeling on a half-hourly timescale shows that this combination can ensure 100% reliable supply.
Implementing the proposed renewable infrastructure over a ten-year timescale would require a small percentage of Australia’s industrial capacity, in terms of resources and labour force. The required investment of $37 Billion/year is the equivalent of 3% of GDP.
The extra money spent versus Business-As-Usual to 2020 is the equivalent of $3.40 per person per day, the cost of a cup of coffee. Avoided future costs of fossil fuels make the Plan an economically attractive proposal.
Commercially-available-now. To make an immediate transition, we can use only the solutions available to us today.
The ZCA2020 report has specified the 100% renewable grid based on proven technologies that are already commercially available, that have already been demonstrated in large industries.
The 10 year transition is based on ‘The Budget Approach’ from the German Advisory Council on Global Change. In order to have a 67% chance of keeping global warming below 2oC above pre-industrial temperatures, on a basis of equal allocation of emissions on a per-capita basis, it would be necessary for the USA to reduce emissions to zero in 10 years.
Australia has the same per-capita emissions as the USA, and would need to pursue the same goal.
Should the transition period begin later than the Plan accounts for, the Plan still serves as a blueprint that could see 100% renewable energy achieved at a later date.
The ZCA2020 Plan is not the only one way that 100% renewable energy could be achieved. The choices for the Plan were made so that the proposed scenario could be rigorously assessed, and to show that all the solutions necessary are already available.
Should new zero-emissions technologies become viable, cost-competitive and available in the lifetime of the Plan, their inclusion may reduce costs and increase benefits even further.
• WIND TURBINES Wind power generation is a key component because of its relatively low cost and industry maturity. Wind energy is proposed to meet 40% of the total grid-connected demand.
• CONCENTRATING SOLAR THERMAL Large scale Concentrating Solar Power Thermal with molten salt storage offers reliable electricity 24 hours per day. Solar power towers are proposed because of their technological maturity, higher operating temperatures and efficiency compared to other technologies. CST is proposed to meet 60% of the total grid-connected demand.
• SMALL SCALE SOLAR Small scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power has a role in reducing the demand for grid electricity during sunlight hours. This in turn allows the CST plants to accumulate more stored energy for release at night.
• HYDROELECTRIC GENERATORS Existing hydroelectric generators have a useful role in providing first-dispatch backup and peaking power.
• BIOMASS BACKUP Backup from crop-residual biomass for the CST plants offers energy security, protecting against occasions when a combination of low wind farm and low daily solar radiation occurs.
Professor Mike Sandiford, Professor of Geology and Director of the Melbourne University Energy Institute says
“BZE’s Zero Carbon Australia is an extraordinary and pragmatic roadmap to a new and more sustainable energy system for Australia, and ultimately our region, and I recommend it to all who are truly interested in securing Australia’s energy future.”
With decisive action beginning now, the target of zero emissions by 2020 for high emitting countries is a realistic and necessary goal.
Over to Julia?