Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s choice: renewable energy superpower or Asian Pacific rust belt

It’s our choice: renewable energy superpower or Asian Pacific rust belt, Guardian
Pat Conroy, 6 Oct 17, 

If we stop fighting change, Australia can be the land of endless energy powering generations of manufacturing industries The shift to decarbonise our economy is portrayed by opponents of such a shift as the death of Australia as an energy superpower.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

As the world decarbonises, if we plan well, Australia can not only continue to be an energy exporting superpower, we should also enjoy a manufacturing boom.

We need to acknowledge that exports of coal for power generation, that is thermal coal, will decline significantly over the next few decades. We will continue to export metallurgical coal, which makes up 65% of our coal exports by value, for a long time to come as there is no other way of manufacturing steel. However, we are in position to replace the thermal coal exports with liquid sunlight.

Around the world, scientists and policymakers are working on the concept of “Power2gas”. Power2gas is driven by a simple issue: how to store and transport solar and wind power for later use.

 This concept involves producing hydrogen gas from the electrolysis of water. An electric current is passed through the water to produce hydrogen and oxygen.

This is a great way of using solar or wind power when there is a surplus of electricity supply in the grid, for example in the middle of the night, when the wind might be blowing hard but people and factories don’t need the power. The electricity is practically free, and it is a very cost-effective way of producing hydrogen from water.

This hydrogen can then be used to fuel cars or to bulk out natural gas to be burned to create electricity; both options are completely carbon neutral……..

The shift to renewables also offers Australia the opportunity to revitalise the manufacturing sector.

As the world decarbonises its electricity supply, the nations that can transform into manufacturing powerhouses are those with the cheapest energy, which will be the nations with the best renewable energy resources.

Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world.

 We also have some of the best wind and wave resources, which often complement solar resources in when they provide the most potential power. Our geographical diversity north-south and east-west means that renewable energy generation can be established in separate regions to capture different periods of windiness and sunniness.

This power can be made reliable and despatchable when coupled with gas peaking plants initially and then pumped hydro and battery storage.

In this scenario Australia can be the land of cheap and endless energy which could power generations of metal manufacturing and other energy intensive manufacturing industries.

We are also well poised to be the capital of mining and processing of key inputs for the renewables revolution. We are the second largest producer of rare earths, we supply 41% of the world’s lithium and we have 12.4% of global copper reserves. These are all crucial materials for clean energy and battery manufacture.

At the moment Australia as a renewable energy export superpower, land of energy intensive manufacturing and home of “renewable metals” processing is merely one of many potential outcomes.

If we continue to bury our heads in the sand and fight change, another outcome is almost assured. In this scenario, we will become the rust belt economy of the Asia Pacific. The home of high electricity prices, the home of broken down, old power plants, the home of unrealised potential and the home of a very gloomy future. It is our choice.


October 7, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy

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