Australian news, and some related international items

Australia can be the first 100 per cent renewables-powered continent

‘Captain Sunshine’ says Australia is not living up to its solar potential,   By Cole Latimer Australia can be the first 100 per cent renewables-powered continent, but it needs the political will to do so, a global solar expert says.

“Australia is not living up to its potential for power generation. It should be aiming for 100 per cent renewable energy, but Australia is up against the older, entrenched fossil fuel industry,” renewable energy entrepreneur and the chief executive of energy investor Energiya Global Capital, Yosef Abramowitz, said.

Dubbed “Captain Sunshine”, Mr Abramowitz is considered a global authority on the application and commercialisation of solar energy technology and has raised millions of dollars to build solar energy projects in Israel and East Africa.

Currently, solar energy accounts for just over 5 per cent of Australia’s total power generation despite it having the world’s highest average solar radiation – the potential for solar energy – of about 58 million petajoules of energy, or about 10,000 times the nation’s annual energy consumption. The size of a solar farm needed to power all of Australia would cover about 6270 square kilometres or approximately 0.1 per cent of the country.

“It’s a myth that the technology is not quite there yet. The time is now to scale towards 100 per cent given Australia’s amazing solar, wind and land resources,” Mr Abramowitz told Fairfax Media.

One of the major hurdles for the integration of more wind and solar power into Australia’s energy mix is the intermittency of the generation. For example, what to do when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Overcoming this requires more consistent generation, known as “reliability”, in the grid, which can be provided through gas- and coal-fired generation as well as pumped hydro storage. This need for reliability is one of the main pillars of the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee, which has limited the levels of wind and solar in the future energy mix to ensure a secure grid.

A solar farm large enough to power all of Australia would only cover 0.1% of the country.

Earlier this week, the head of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Audrey Zibelman, also warned of flow-on economic effects caused by rising levels of rooftop solar. She said as more people installed rooftop solar, the proportional costs increased for those who still relied solely on grid power for their electricity.

Mr Abramowitz said while the task of shifting to complete renewable generation seemed gargantuan, it was possible.

“In Israel, we wanted the whole southern tip of the country to be 100 per cent powered by solar energy during the day, from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, – it seemed unlikely,” Mr Abramowitz said. “Today, that region is 70 per cent powered by solar energy during the day and can be 100 per cent by 2020.”

He said Australia lacked the political will to make the push for more renewable energy but added that it was a two-way street and the people needed to demand a shift in energy.

“Political leaders will follow the people’s will, we’d like to see more green audacity,” he said.

He said with more political support and policy frameworks solar markets could strengthen in Australia.

“Australia has had an on/off progress in solar –  investors need to see a horizon,” he said.

“It’s difficult for the investment community to go ahead now, Australia needs to project a long-range horizon that investors can get excited about.

Australia needs to re-examine its coal-fired power plants and consider the costs of phasing them out; the timing is a political decision but the economic decision is simple.”

He added that Australia’s vast gas resources could also be utilised to aid this shift away from coal power.

Mr Abramowitz said solar power could provide a massive economic opportunity for the Northern Territory, particularly in remote communities. “When you have people living off the grid they tend to be poorer, as there is a real correlation between a lack of access to energy and a lack of economic development,” he said.

May 2, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy

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