Australia: Greens set 100 percent-renewable goal

10. November 2011 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets | By:  Jonathan Gifford

Just days after helping the historic carbon tax to pass the Senate of the Australian Parliament, the Australian Green party has said it believes a goal of 100 percent renewables can be realized within a decade.

Supporting a statement made by one of his Senators, party leader Bob Brown has told ABC Radio that now the carbon tax has passed, "we can’t rest on our laurels and we’ll be looking at how we can improve on that in the future."

Reacting to the claims, Australian Sustainable Energy Association’s Ray Wills told pv magazine he thinks the costs involved in compensating recently-built power plants makes it prohibitively expensive for this to occur within ten years. However, he quickly added that technology transitions, such as from fossil fuels to renewables, happen far faster than conventional markets predict.

Observing that polysilicon prices have dropped 56 percent in 2011, and that module and equipment prices are also falling fast, Wills said, "By 2015, is a radical change about to start? It certainly is."

He concluded that 100 percent renewables is achievable in Australia by 2025. "In one sense, Bob Brown’s ten years only if he changes when his starting point was."

One of the keys to this is photovoltaics and, in particular, the role electric cars will play in providing storage solutions for households. With vast research and manufacturing resources being invested in the development of electric cars, Wills said that this is another factor accelerating the technology shift from fossil fuels to renewables, both in Australia and beyond.

As further evidence of the shift away from fossil fuels and, in particular, coal-fueled electricity, Wills cited figures showing that only 14 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fueled generation capacity was installed last year. At the same time, 20 GW of solar was installed.

Some Australian politicians, such as Senator Barnaby Joyce, have mocked the Green Party claims. "We aren't going to have much to talk about in a decade's time, because we'll be all stone motherless broke," Joyce was quoted to have said in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Responding to this, Wills made a parallel between the horse-and-cart and motor car debate of a century ago. "He’s completely wrong, because every economic revolution has come with losers, the buggy manufacturers went out of business and they got replaced by the car manufacturers. I bet everyone involved with buggy manufacture would tell you everyone was going to be flat broke. Well they were, but the ones that replaced them made money."


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