The WMO "State of the Global Climate" report for the past 25 years confirms that year 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record and green-house gas levels are at record highs. In spite of this we have politicians such as Barnaby Joyce supporting the building of more coal-fired power stations and arguing that we in Australia can "do nothing" towards the reduction in green-house gas emissions. What nonsense. Ill-informed politicians argue that base-load power can never be achieved by renewables alone, and this too is surely nonsense. Mr Mike Cannon-Brookes of 'Fair Dinkum Power' says Australia could move to 100 per cent renewable energy creating one of the "greatest economic opportunities for our country in terms of job creation and economic growth over the next 10 - 20 years".
The early concept of centralised, large power stations with thousands of kilometres of high-voltage power lines has now become extremely expensive due to higher maintenance costs which contribute significantly to our escalating power prices. With increasing frequency of extreme weather events maintenance costs will continue to increase as the power lines more frequently become ignition sources of bushfires from airborne debris and structural failure as a consequence of wild weather.
Far better to have many de-centralised renewable energy power stations each with their own network of distribution power-lines. Such a concept can generate many regional jobs, minimize maintenance costs, and minimize the impact of State-wide "blackouts" during wild storms. Wind power, together with PV solar and concentrated-solar plants are accelerating the introduction of renewable energy at diminishing cost and the merits of smaller pumped-hydro plants are becoming clear as supported by research out of the ANU.
Professor Jamie Pittock, of the ANU, explains that more than 20 pumped storage hydropower (PSH) are currently being assessed or built in five States and will quickly accelerate the nation's transition to an electricity generation system free of fossil fuels. Even coastal pumped hydro plants using sea-water (similar to the Yanbura plant in Okinawa, Japan) have great merit as they do not require the construction of a lower reservoir and are not reliant on consistent rainfall which can no longer be assured. Renewable hydrogen from ammonia for use in fuel-cell vehicles including cars, trucks, buses and trains is another rapidly developing energy storage avenue of huge potential. With fuel-cell vehicles being emission free, a significant reduction in global emissions of approx 20 per cent is on offer.
So many modern renewable energy systems are now available some of which include energy storage capacity sufficient for peak demand back-up. The key to achieving base-load power around our vast continent is surely therefore to have numerous smaller, renewable power plants of appropriate types strategically placed geographically to serve population concentrations together with hydrogen fuel-cell technology for more diverse applications including many forms of transportation.
No Barnaby, we don't "give up" and surrender to escalating climate-change believing "we can do nothing" ; only political will is required. Modern renewable technology presents us with many opportunities for green-house gas reduction together with strong regional employment opportunities.
Ian Cooper, California Gully
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