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Australia Group Rolls Out Plan for 100% Renewable Energy by 2020

'There Are No Technological Impediments'

By Stacy Feldman

Feb 22, 2010

A report to be released in the first half of this year finds that Australia can use solar and wind power to produce 100 percent of its electricity in 10 years using technologies that are available now.

The study is being compiled by the Victoria–based advocacy group and is based on the research of engineers and scientists.

"We have concluded that there are no technological impediments to transforming Australia’s stationary energy sector to zero emissions over the next 10 years," said Matthew Wright, executive director of Beyond Zero Emissions.

Australia now gets nearly 80 percent of its power from coal plants. Only 1 percent comes from wind power; less than half of 1 percent comes from solar energy.

"We're in a state of complete stagnation [on clean energy] at the moment," Wright told SolveClimate. "When the time is right and the community support is strong enough to take on the entrenched special interests of the big polluters, then our plan will be ripe for the picking."

The report calls for 40 percent of power to come from wind turbines. Concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, with molten salt to store energy, would form the backbone of the scheme, providing 60 percent of total electricity.

CSP uses mirrors instead of solar cells to collect sunlight to produce steam and drive turbines to produce power. There are few such utility-scale plants operating in the world today, and 30 under construction — none of which are in Australia.

According to , a 50-square-kilometer area covered in solar mirrors could theoretically meet all of Australia's electricity demand.

The report claims that 20 percent of the proposed CSP systems could be installed in four years, from 2011 to 2015. Wright said 12 sites with a capacity of 3,500 megawatts each have already been selected for the solar installations.

"The sites were chosen by a team that includes solar researchers from Melbourne University and Australian National University, based on solar incidence data, with particular attention paid to winter insolation," he said.

The whole point of the zero carbon plan is "not to burn anything," Wright said. But biomass co-firing would be needed to back up solar plants in the throes of winter. The plan would also require new transmission lines between the solar- and wind-intensive areas and population centers.

The organization calls for the total elimination of natural gas, not just coal. It also envisions 100 percent electric vehicles by 2020.

Wright concedes that the plan is ambitious. At the same time, he says, it is "totally feasible," despite the price tag.

The cost of quitting carbon entirely is estimated at around $36 billion per year, or up to 3.5 percent of Australia's annual GDP.

"The costs of transformation are adequately offset by savings made from shifting away from the business-as-usual scenario," Wright said, mainly "by avoiding the costs of a future carbon price and escalating oil, coal and water prices."

Chances for any kind of clean power transformation appear slim in Australia. The Senate in December failed to pass climate legislation that would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent by 2020 through a cap-and-trade program. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labor government says it will reintroduce the legislation in late February.

The Beyond Zero Emissions plan, which launched last week as the centerpiece of the — an alliance of green groups — has been publicly endorsed by the Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Sen. Christine Milne, and by Victoria Gov. David De Kretser.

More endorsements could follow. "We have a panel of experts currently reviewing the plan who will decide on their endorsement once the final plan is released in a couple of months," Wright said.

So far, the group has not received any real backlash from opponents. "It seems the fossil fuel industry and other vested interests, as well as their media representatives, have decided not to attack us," Wright added. "Perhaps they do not want to bring attention to such a legitimate project."

The group has issued a on how to zero CO2 emissions from the electricity sector. A full report will be released in the coming months, followed by studies on carbon-free transportation, industrial processes, buildings, land use and agriculture, and plans for replacing coal exports.

No Nuclear

Wind and solar power could completely displace conventional fossil fuels, with no new nuclear power needed, the report said.

"The reason people put their finger on the nuclear option is because they felt there was no other option. That's not the case today," Wright added. "We have renewables that do 24-hour firm power."

The claim comes as nuclear power advocates worldwide are pushing for the construction of new plants to slow down climate change.

The U.S. just guaranteed over $8 billion in loans for the first two nuclear plants in the nation in over 30 years. Some analysts see the move as the beginning of an atomic renaissance.

In a statement today on his Facebook page, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that "wind and solar are intermittent energy sources" and "nuclear power has to be on the table."

"Without technological breakthroughs in efficient, large scale energy storage, it will be difficult to rely on intermittent renewables for much more than 20-30 percent of our electricity," wrote Chu. "But nuclear power can provide large amounts of carbon-free power that is always available."

Rudd has ruled out a nuclear revival for Australia.

Australian skeptics paint the entire Beyond Zero Emissions plan as a pipe dream — especially so without new nuclear power.

"Because of irregularity, wind and sunshine can only feasibly contribute around 15 percent of the electricity load," said Alan Moran, director of the Deregulation Unit at Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs, a free-market group.

For transportation, Moran is particularly unconvinced.

"It is impossible — certainly by 2020 and possibly ever — to envisage fuel for cars, planes and other transport being from renewable sources," he said. "Nuclear is a possibility — with batteries for cars — but even that would leave vast holes in supply and not be feasible for the whole transport fleet inside half a century."

Zero-Carbon Plans

Despite the naysayers, plans worldwide have sounded a similar note on a total renewable energy future.

A report presented last year by the German Advisory Council on Global Change, chaired by prominent climate scientist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, concluded that the U.S. must cut emissions 100 percent by 2020 to prevent the worst effects of climate change, while other major polluters have until 2025 or 2030 to produce carbon-free electricity.

More recently, Stanford University engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi published a plan for 100% renewable energy for the entire world by 2030, fueled by a mix of solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

The construction costs for a global electricity shift of the kind envisioned in Australia, however, "might be" $100 trillion worldwide over 20 years, the authors said.


See also:

100% Renewables by 2030 for Less Than Fossil Power: A Case is Made

Gore Calls for Clean Tech Moonshot To Repower America


Australia now gets nearly 80 percent

Australia now gets nearly 80 percent of its power from coal plants. Only 1 percent comes from wind power; less than half of 1 percent comes from solar energy. I wonder how much take up of the coal production

Interstig facts I wish It

Interstig facts I wish It could deploy as plan In australia it is very important for

The actions being taken by

The actions being taken by Australia with its environmental policies are an example to other nations, at least we have a news positive. This contribution to the environment not only benefit the country but to use their own energies do not pollute the environment with Co2 emissions.

I agree. The positive news

I agree. The positive news are rare event so we have to appreciate them. I hope the project will be filfilled. I don't want to be pesimistic but a lot of interests are affected here.

If any of you have been

If any of you have been lately in Australia you probably noticed that the touristic industry is way ahead using renewable energy. The country needs this kind of transformation, pollution used to be a problem in the big cities of the country.

Concept of renewable energy

Concept of renewable energy still not panitrating in the world.Its really awesome that Australia will utilized 100% renewable energy untill 2010.Currently I am working for and I want to facilitate office work environment in a greater secnce.

Join Others at Zero Emissions World Congress

If you've commented and/or read this article, then you should join others from around the world congregating in Honolulu Sept. 13-17, 2010 at The World Congress on Zero Emissions Initiatives – Launching "The Blue Economy." The Congress plans to focus on design of an economic system driven by innovations, generating jobs and building social capital. Much of the content will be derived from Prof. Gunter Pauli's book, The Blue Economy (and he will be one of the speakers). In fact, he has begun release of 100 innovations per week for 100 weeks that he forecasts, if all innovations are implemented, have the potential to generate 100 million jobs during the next decade.
His first two innovations (one on water & reverse osmosis, the other on 'nature's nurses') are posted at where you can also learn about the World Congress.


Considering the largest owner of Windfarms and Solar tech is Unions and affilliates it seems like a stich up to make the population pay for schemes that will never run with out government subsidies. It would be better for the scientific communities to put their efforts into finding alternatives rather than issueing global doom warnings.

Gov subsidises fossil fuels

Governments subsidised and in most cases directly built the coal-fired power infrastructure that is now causing catastrophic climate change - even though it was more expensive than the previous system. All we're asking for is the same treatment for renewable energy that we got for fossil fuel energy - no more and no less.

And the whole point of this article, which seems to have been lost on the denier commentator above, is that the alternatives already exist and are already commercialised. By all means keep researching but that's no excuse to delay the urgent action necessary. Let's get some baseload solar going!

No "American Style" Nuclear!

Tsinghua University in China has developed a higher efficiency reactor - for a given amount of waste, a much higher amount of energy is made available! This "Pebble Bed" high temperature reactor apparently doesn't produce weapons grade materials either - much to American chagrin, and much to greater happiness for the rest of the world! India also has thorium bed reactors that produce less waste with only 100 year danger period to humankind! We may have heard the last of the American style weapons producing reactors of great danger and great waste, but have we heard the last of fissionables for energy - I doubt it very much, as China is going ahead with more than 10 reactors to buffer the last days of sweet crude on earth, while the U.S. hides its head in the sand, or other places, as you prefer.

The Power of Desertec

There are powerful systems-of-systems benefits to Desertec. See, for example,

Compare with money spent on the military

The world spends about 1.5 trillion dollars each year on military power - which at best has no utility to mankind at all and at worst has negative utility. The US spends about 600 billion dollars each year.

We need politicians who are brave enough to go against the military industrial complex and move money from military spending to investing in zero emission power plants.

What does the failure to prove AGW have to do with the military?

So, would you rather speak Japanese or German?
Just asking.

Remember, when your position is weak.

1. Exaggerate the problem.
2. Attack the messenger not the message.
3. Redirect the debate.
4. Lie.

Right now it looks like the ‘debate’ is hovering between 2 and 3.


Which is exactly what the oil and coal industries are doing, right down the line, with special emphasis on No. 4.

CSP is what we need

"Without technological breakthroughs in efficient, large scale energy storage, it will be difficult to rely on intermittent renewables for much more than 20-30 percent of our electricity," wrote Chu. "But nuclear power can provide large amounts of carbon-free power that is always available."

What does Chu mean by this? Solar thermal (CSP) with heat storage is not intermittent, and can have capacity factor of 65% with just 6-8 hours heat storage. In fact, the flip side of the always available feature of base load like nuclear is also a drawback when you are trying to intergrate PV and wind into the system. When you have a heat mass like molten salt to tap for power as needed, there is no intermittency. In fact its valuable dispatchable power, which is better suited to integrating the other intermittent sources. The areas of the southwest best suited to CSP have very few cloudy days in a year. And it needs no miracle " technological breakthroughs in efficient, large scale energy storage". Its far more efficient than storing energy in batteries. Now a company in Canada says they can produce four times the energy of current CSP technology at half the cost.

CSP is our best renewable energy source with the most potential, bar none.
Just the California deserts alone have the potential for 660 GW according to the NREL, while avoiding envirnomentaly sensitive areas and only using land of 1% slope or less. There are 5 other states with similar potential. California now has 58 GW generating capacity from all energy sources, for comparison. Mexico also has huge potential just south of our border. It could also help with water issues by desalinating sea water.

We have Desertec Europe, Desertec Mideast and Africa, and Desertec Australia
Its time for Desertec USA

Think humans can change the climate; just prove it in court.

I realize that most of you are aware of the many court cases against the EPA CO2 finding in the United States, what you might not be aware of is the strategy being taken by the State of Virginia.

The State of Virginia is not challenging the EPA’s authority; The State of Virginia intends to challenge the findings of climate scientists, under oath, in open court. That gives the State of Virginia all the powers and facilities of a court case, discovery, financial forensic investigation, corporate and private relationships, burden of proof, investigating chain of custody of data, originals not manipulated copies, subpoenas, search warrants, depositions, etc.

The AGW believers will have to prove the science in open court.

I can hardly wait to hear computer science engineers up on the witness stand explaining what the climatology programs they have examined do to real data; or a Court Bailiff indicating that the original data required for the proof could not be found; or how the Treasurer from CRU will explain paying some ‘scientists’ in installments just under the $10,000.00 limit so that they could avoid taxes; or Michael Mann on the stand explaining the hockey stick, without the data or programs that created it; or NOAA explain the logic of using hopelessly sited thermometers to judge the worlds temperature. The mind boggles.

The believers in human induced global warming will actually have to come up with proof, not models, not software, but real data from the real world.

I wonder how many of the thousands-and-thousands of scientists will be willing to appear, we will finally get the actual list of names (if such a list ever existed).

I doubt the court will take kindly to being insulted, the usual tactic for the believers in human induced global warming when questioned.

All this and much, much more, this is going to be very, very interesting.

I do not know which we will run out of first; popcorn or busses.

Commonwealth of Virginia v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- Petition for Reconsideration of Endangerment & Cause (U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia)

dear denier...

Dear denier,

Your comment has nothing to do with the article posted above. Please get a life and/or a brain.

Cuccinelli is an embarassment for the Commonwealth

As described by one of the Commonwealth of Virginia's leading papers,

Virginians knew it wouldn’t take long for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to focus his attention and office on furthering his political agenda and ambitions. The surprise, perhaps, is that it took him a whole month to put Virginia embarrassingly ahead of Texas as an opponent of science and the source of states-rights nonsense.

That was just the opening paragraph of the broadside taking Cuccinelli to task for wasting the taxpayer's resources in such a fraudulent law suit. (See: )

Your comment is filled with truthiness-laden misleading talking points. What might be interesting, by the way, is to seek the EPA using, with the weight and power of the US government, that same case to get documents from those Cuccinelli will be citing in support of his reckless waste of taxpayer resources.

IPA is ignorant

Interesting that the writer got the Institute of Public Affairs to comment on the zero carbon plan. They don't know anything about renewable energy and are merely a front group for the fossil fuel industry. Alan Moran's comment that renewables can provide 15% of our electricity is just so very, very wrong. Spain is already getting 11% from wind and at some specific times last year was hitting around 50% of their electricity from renewable energy. Denmark is planning 50% from wind by 2025.

Even the Australian Government is planning 20% by 2020!! What planet are these people on?

It is best if the IPA was ignored in this debate, their role is to protect fossil fuel industry profits, not ensure humanity avoids catastrophic climate change.

Australia Group Rolls Out Plan for 100% Renewable Energy by 2020

The actions being taken by Australia with its environmental policies are an example to other nations, at least we have a news positive. This contribution to the environment not only benefit the country but to use their own energies do not pollute the environment with Co2 emissions.


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