Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Renewable energy set to surge

6 June 2011, Page: 4

AUSTRALIA is expected to generate six times more renewable energy and up to three times more gas fired power in 2050 under a carbon price than it does today, according to Treasury modelling for the multiparty climate policy committee.

Consultants at Green Energy Markets recently estimated coal provides about 76% of Australia's electricity; gas 16% and renewable sources 7%. Although few details were released, it is understood the Treasury projections assume a starting carbon price of $20 to $30 a tonne of CO₂ the range being considered by the multi party committee.

Assumptions about the pace at which a carbon price would increase, or how rapidly Australia would cut emissions, were not available. The snapshot said gas fired power which in baseload form has about two-thirds fewer emissions than coal would generate 2 to 3 times more output in 40 years than today.

Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry said the shift to a cleaner economy was expected to involve more gas fired power but should only be developed if it included technology to capture and store emissions. He said the proportion of power from burning coal must be dramatically reduced unless carbon capture proved viable. "It is a little hard to judge, based on what has been released, but we'd be looking for much stronger growth in renewables than appears to be indicated by Treasury figures", Mr Henry said.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt used World Environment Day to call on the government to organise, with Indonesia, a global conference to set targets for saving the world's rainforests. He called for a global rainforest recovery program before the end of the year.

"The single best thing you can do right now to help reduce emissions on a grand scale and to help protect the world's biodiversity is a global rainforest recovery program", Mr Hunt told the Ten Network. "If you can reduce the emissions by half from the destruction of rainforests by 2020, up to 4 billion tonnes of emissions could be saved". He said the government should expand a $200 million Howard government policy to protect rainforests, which Labor has continued but not escalated.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said Australia was working with other countries through the UN to develop a global plan to cut emissions from rainforest logging and degradation.