What are the key elements that would make a shift to a sustainable economy in Australia acceptable to our society?
By David Holland
It is clear that Australian consumers want the cheapest and most efficient energy sources available. Politics over the last few years has proved that. However, Australians have embraced the idea of renewable energy being the next way to power our society. (Based on a survey of 365 local groups voting unanimously for a 50% renewable energy target by 2030 see Holland (2017))
A change from unsustainable fossil fuel must happen as it is destroying our planet, but to what new energy source. (Holland 2016) For a change there has to be a price signal on carbon to bring new energy sources on line. Currently Australia is mothballing old coal fired power stations without replacements, but if new ones were built would their cost be enough of a price signal to go renewable without a carbon market?
Foran (2009) advocated carbon capture and storage. Holland (2011) rules it out and suggests new sustainable technologies like solar, wind and other renewable technologies?
Foran (2009) suggests biofuels may be an interim answer for vehicles, but Hughes et al (2012) indicates that biofuels are a disrupter to current agricultural practices devoted to foods. Biofuel production may also exacerbate the production of methane, a climate change gas, through increased fertilisers use. (Holland 2016)
Hughes et al (2012) suggests that biofuel produced from algae may be suitable for production on larger scales to partially satisfy fuel demands.
While Hellgardt (2013) exposes another benefit of algae, which is to produce hydrogen from sunlight instead of using a process of splitting the hydrogen atom from water called electrolysis. However, with Australia’s vast opportunities for the production of sustainable energy, this electrolysis process could be employed to produce hydrogen as well. Hydrogen could be used as an energy source for heating and fuel cells etc. (Holland 2011)
Holland (2011 p. 16-20), commenting on Bossel’s paper, advocates that with some research, he believes that hydrogen can be placed in chemical or molecular containers and be transported world wide as energy in the place of coal, thus eliminating coal as a container for energy.
Freight systems could be transformed to run on renewable electricity, saving tonnes of CO2 and eliminating 100’s of trucks on interstate roads. (Holland 2011 p. 15-16: Holland 2015)
The above sustainable energy solutions are clearly possible and acceptable ways to change our economy to a more sustainable economy, but Tim Jackson advocates that infinite growth of the economy is unsustainable. (Stern 2015) Clearly the above measures are to replace unsustainable fossil fuels but there may be a small amount of growth due to market opportunities for energy. There is no economic reason for the Australian energy industry to grow beyond the needs of the Australian consumer accept for the supply to export markets and the commodity that is required in all of the above energy sources is substantially sunlight.
Foran, B. (2009). Powerful choices: transition to a biofuel economy in Australia (pp. iii to xv), Executive Summary, Land and Water Australia, http://library.bsl.org.au/jspui/bitstream/1/1258/1/Powerful_choices.pdf, cited April 2017.
Hellgardt Klaus Dr.(2013), Hydrogen Production – Fully Charged, Interviewed by Mr Llewellyn, youtube, Hydrogen Production | Fully Charged, cited April 2017.
Holland, David (2017 Jan.), Renewable Energy Policy Development in Australia from 2001 to 2017, Habitat Association ,Wordpress, https://habitatassociation.com.au/2017/01/22/renewable-energy-policy-development-in-australia-from-2001-to-2017/, Cites April 2017.
Holland D. (2016 Dec.), What are fossil fuels doing to our planet’s ecology and economic systems, Habitat Centre for Renewable energy, WordPress, https://habitatcenterforrenewableenergy.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/what-are-fossil-fuels-doing-to-our-planetary-systems/, cited April 2017.
Holland D. (2015), Renewable Energy and the Non- Bulk Rail Freight to replace Road Freight, Habitat Centre for Renewable Energy, WordPress, https://habitatcenterforrenewableenergy.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/renewable-energy-and-non-bulk-rail-freight-to-replace-road-frieght/, cited April 2017.
Holland, David (2011), Commentary on Correspondence 2006- 2009, Discussion Paper – Don’t sell Australia Short, https://gallery2020publishing.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/commentary-on-correspondence-for-australias-energy-future-may-2011.pdf, cited April 2017.
Hughes, Adam D,Kelly, Maeve S, Black, Kenneth D, Stanley, Michele S, (2012), Biogas from Macroalgae: is it time to revisit the idea?, Biotechnology for Biofuels, BioMed Central, https://biotechnologyforbiofuels.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1754-6834-5-86, cited April 2017.
Stern, David I. (2015), Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, Tim Jackson. Earthscan, London (2009), Ecological Economics, Volume 69, Issue 5, 15 March 2010, Pages 1190–1191, http://doi.org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.11.026, cited April 2017