The Long-term Vision

The Future Seem Long Away But, It Isn’t

The Australian government finally succumbed to the protests of the people and announced its plans to abandon the carbon tax. In place of a fixed carbon price would be an emission trading scheme. 

The question now is, how exactly will Australia achieve its 100 percent renewable energy? Or if the suggestion of the Greens is to be taken, 90 per cent? Whether 100 per cent or 90 per cent, this piece is about how Australia can achieve a low carbon future.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released a landmark report where it showed that transitioning to 100 per cent renewable electricity is a practicable and cheap option for the Australian National Electricity Market. The AEMO’s modelling projects a 20 to 30 per cent increase from the current retail electricity prices. 

The short-term inconvenience is not too much of a price to pay towards a sustainable future as what the current global trends show is that the volatility of fuel prices and the increasing pressure to reduce greenhouse emissions will drag the price of electricity towards what Australians would be paying for 100 per cent renewable electricity now within the next decade.

If the cost of non-renewable energy is going to match up to what renewable will cost, is it not better than to pay the price for a long-term vision now and promote a more sustainable world? A sustainable world in this context is one that future generations will meet. Knowing that our actions today have huge impacts in how our children will live is a very jarring clarion call.

Currently, only about 10 per cent of Australia’s electricity is from renewable sources. Working towards 100 percent renewable electricity will require that current models and trends be updated and fitted to suit the requirement of the new world. 

Realising this will require electricity operators to get over familiarity bias and institutional barriers and develop entirely new models to fit the changes.

The government, operators and other stakeholders need to understand this to plan for the challenges that would be faced in the future. Time, effort and other resources that had been invested into the project need to be utilised properly to understand the cost, risks, limitations and opportunities of the renewable electricity system.

Apart from modelling, achieving the 100 per cent renewable future needs more to come into reality. We could help by following the suggestion of the Greens to expand and extend the Renewable Energy Target. We could also ensure that carbon prices stabilise at a high level. Furthermore, Australia could borrow a leaf from other nations that have used utility scale feed-in tariffs to great effect. Such is being done again to drive solar development in the ACT.

The most important point is to always keep the long-term vision in focus while debating short term points on carbon price. The government could facilitate this development by requiring electricity operators to continue modelling 100 per cent renewable electricity prototypes as the time passes. At some point, the present and the future will collide.

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