The current national debate focuses on many potential solutions including:
- storage technology,
- improved connection between the states,
- earmarking a portion of gas for domestic use only and
- more sophisticated grid management.
Yes, clean coal is mentioned too. But we’re not convinced it’s actually a real thing. Coal is either filthy, or a bit less filthy and while it’s unrealistic to suggest that it won’t be around for a little while yet, it’s our belief that time and effort and money will be better spent on alternatives with real potential such as:
In the short term there probably is a role to play for gas, but with the rapid changes in storage technologies this time frame seems very limited and might even bypass gas. In the meantime, AEMO , the Australian Electricity Market Operator, has drawn up a list of recommendations including that LNG producers redirect some gas meant for export and set it aside for domestic use only. There is also the introduction of incentives to see what extra gas can be extracted from existing and new fields, and building a proposed pipeline from the Northern Territory to eastern states.
In its latest budget, handed down in May 2017, the Federal Government earmarked $28.7 million over four years to encourage the responsible development of onshore gas for the domestic market.
Pumped Hydro/Snowy River Hydro
In the same 2017 federal budget, the Government stated its intention to buy a larger share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to bolster its renewable energy stores.
Right now, especially under these circumstances, there is a clear imperative to look to other energy sources. On average, most places in Australia experience more than 200 days of sunshine per year, yet as a nation we are nowhere near as advanced with rooftop generated solar power as we could be. Solar power is a clean, reliable energy source that can be used on its own, or augmented with other power sources. Solar presents an obvious solution because it is cost effective, and immediately available. Households that install panels on their roofs today can be generating their own solar immediately and feed back to the grid any excess they generate.
Until now, the price of batteries has been the main impediment to wide-spread uptake for households. However, it’s possible that in the face of this impending energy crisis two things may occur: the demand for batteries will increase, bringing prices down. The second consideration is that the price of batteries needs to be now factored in alongside volatile and rising energy prices. This means that for some, storage might be more economically viable than previously thought. However, for households there is still reason to proceed with an element of caution before investing as the technology is still changing and so is the price.
What about climate change – can we find the balance?
The generation of electricity using fossil fuels account for around a third of Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions, the single biggest contributor of any sector, twice that of transport. Therefore, if we are to start to tackle climate change, the easiest place to start is transitioning to a cleaner energy sector and leaving 19th century fuels behind, buried in the ground where they belong.
The mounting evidence suggests that the most immediate, cost-effective and most flexible solution to Australia’s energy crisis, whilst also possibly delivering a more rapid cut in emissions involves a combination of:
- clean energy,
- storage technology,
- better energy connection between the states,
- improved energy efficiency,
- energy market education and transparency for consumers,
- and more sophisticated grid management at times of peak demand.
So, there are number of feasible options to energy management and costs, and they are all valid. But the impact upon the consumer in all of this remains the issue of rising prices, at least in the short term as we transition to lower cost and reliable renewable energy.