An analysis of the feasibility of Renewable Energy as the sole energy source
Using Australia as a Case Study with international comparisons
Fossil fuels are non-renewable; they draw on finite resources that will eventually become too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve. Renewable energy sources, such as wind, hydro-electric and solar, are constantly replenished and will never run out. It has been suggested that with sufficient public and private sector investment and government policy certainty, Australia could switch entirely to renewable energy within a decade by building additional large-scale solar and wind power developments, upgrading the transmission infrastructure and introducing appropriate energy efficiency measures.[iii]
However, with the advent of blackouts in one State, higher energy prices and the closure of antiquated, “dirty” coal – fired power stations, the reliance on renewable energy, and the quantification of targets, has become a political football in Australia.
Despite the constant changes to policy, renewable energy (RE) has undergone substantial growth in Australia in the 21st century. In 2015 14.6% of the total electricity production was derived from RE, compared with 2006 when less than 4% was generated from renewables.[iv] For RE to become a substitute for most, if not all, fossil fuel generated power, “smart grid” technology based upon Electrical Energy Storage (EES) must be fully commercialized. Emerging EES technology will allow energy generated from renewable resources to be consumed in peak periods with the storage able to smooth supply and demand more effectively over the network.
This article examines the history of policy, the cost of RE schemes and the experience of other countries to conclude whether wholesale reliance on renewables for energy is a feasible alternative in Australia, particularly in view of the push by the current Liberal government for “clean”, coal – fired power stations.