Sustainable energy: A fresh perspective

Photo of array of solar panels in Lincoln Nebraska, United StatesHSV Public Lecture by Sean Frost at Balwyn Library on 23 August 2018

Australia exports far more energy resources than we use. The vast majority of the energy resources that we extract are fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil. Electricity is only a small proportion of Australia’s final consumption. In 2016, Australia was the largest exporter of coal. Coal supplied 63% of Australia’s electricity generation in 2016.

There have been dramatic price rises in the last decade. This increase was mainly due to increased network charges (“poles and wires”) and wholesale prices. Renewable energy drives down wholesale prices, which helps to reduce customers’ electricity prices. Electricity prices are forecast to go down in the short term.

Australia’s coal and gas exports have increased in recent years. Gas exports are driving up the wholesale price, which is a major contributor to retail gas price rises. Worldwide global electricity access is accelerating – in India in particular. That electricity is increasingly coming from renewable sources.

The International Energy Agency aims for all people having energy by 2030, with climate goals still achieved. Shell accepts the Paris agreement with a climate target of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and aims to get to zero emissions by 2070.  Oil, gas and coal will dominate world energy for the next thirty years, but after that the energy mix will include a large proportion of solar, wind, nuclear, biomass and other renewables.

Australia has abundant energy resources, both fossil fuels and renewable energy. We are unavoidably participating in a relatively rapid global energy transition, which needs to be sustainable. The need to tackle climate change is more urgent than most people realise. Managing climate change is only part of a sustainability transition.

The American Humanist Association has issued a Resolution on Climate Change.

Report by Joe Sampson

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