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Australia Could be 100 Percent Renewable-Powered by 2020

Report shows full penetration capability while government aims at 20 percent.

2 min read
Australia Could be 100 Percent Renewable-Powered by 2020

Just as a report surfaced showing the way that Australia could be powered completely by wind and solar as early as 2020, the country's government reached a deal to maintain its renewable energy target at 20 percent by that year while adjusting more near-term targets upward.

The Australian non-profit group Beyond Zero Emissions published a Zero Carbon Australia report [PDF] with a roadmap toward total renewable energy penetration in an astonishing ten years. The plan calls for a 40 percent share of power generation to come from wind (Denmark, by comparison, has a plan to generate 50 percent of its power from wind by 2025), with the balance coming from enormous amounts of concentrating solar thermal installations. To manage variability in renewable power, they incorporate the use of molten salt thermal storage.

This plan even comes with a projected increase in energy usage, up 40 percent from 228 terawatt-hours/year today to 325 TWh/year in 2020. It also, though, comes with a pricetag: $37 billion (Australian dollars, or about $32.3 billion US) per year. The report authors don't find that so unreasonable:

"The required investment of $37 billion/year is the equivalent of 3% of GDP. The extra money spent versus Business-As-Usual to 2020 is the equivalent of $3.40 per person per day, the cost of a cup of coffee."

And after laying out the specific methods, including types of power, grid infrastructure and job creation and requirements, the authors conclude that the idea's technical feasibility now needs only one thing:

"What is required to make this happen is leadership from policymakers and society, with firm decisions made quickly that will allow this transition to occur."

And what are the policymakers up to? Well, 100 percent probably isn't on the table right now, but at least they're talking about 20 percent. This, of course, is more of a renewable energy portfolio standard than the United States currently has (although upwards of 30 states have their own now). But reports like that from Beyond Zero Emissions are cropping up often these days, over and over casting doubt on the arguments that renewables can't supply large proportions of electricity with existing technology. Maybe one of these days someone will listen.

Image via Beyond Zero Emissions

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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