Blackouts and emissions are linked
Analysis of last week’s soaring electricity demand and the latest data on greenhouse gas emissions confirms the risk of blackouts will increase unless there is a serious rethink about energy, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy said today.
A study of the Federal Government report, Tracking to the Kyoto Protocol Target, shows that the uncontrolled growth in electricity generation will now see Australia exceed its greenhouse gas emissions target of 108% of 1990 levels by 2010. The reason for the emissions blowout is that our electricity consumption has been considerably higher than projected and the emission intensity of power generation has increased over the past five years – not decreased. Last week’s record high electricity demand is evidence of this. Clearly the ‘business as usual’ approach – relying on centralised, coal-fired generation to meet our insatiable appetite for power – is not working.
Australia’s energy challenges are two-fold: securing a reliable energy supply for the future, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
These will not be addressed without a stronger, alternative policy response that (a) reduces Australia’s reliance on centralised coal-fired generation and expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure; and (b) reduces energy consumption.
Last week, power consumption hit record levels in the National Electricity Market. Transmission outages caused by bushfires in Victoria then led to blackouts. Executive Director of the BCSE, Ric Brazzale, said incentives that recognised the avoided network benefits of decentralised energy would lighten the load on the grid considerably.
“Over the next five years more than $24 billion is to be invested on poles, wires and substations because of old thinking towards the electricity market, yet this will just exacerbate the problems of supply vulnerability and increased greenhouse gas emissions, “ Mr Brazzale said.
“Imagine if every home, community or commercial building had their own solar power or combined heat and power plant – it simply wouldn’t matter if a single transmission line went down.
“It would also lessen the huge investments planned for the network.
“Taking a lead from California and Germany by adopting energy market reforms that recognise the benefits of decentralised energy, Australia could future-proof its energy supply and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. “In an age where climate change is altering rainfall patterns and increasing the frequency and intensity of bushfires and droughts, the pursuit of even more centralised, coal-fired generation is just bad policy.”
Measures need to be taken now that start to transition our economy from “high consumption” and “high emission” to a cleaner, low-carbon one.
The technologies and applications are available today that can start to reduce our energy consumption and ensure that the energy that we do consume comes from cleaner energy sources.