Australia could meet its 2030 carbon emissions target by replacing coal-fired power stations with renewable energy at zero net cost, according to a new study by the Australian National University (ANU).
Professor Andrew Blakers from the ANU Research School of Engineering said Australia had pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. According to him, the net cost to meet this target with renewable energy was zero because the cost of electricity from new-build wind and solar power generators was below the cost of electricity from new-build fossil fuel generators.
“The cost of renewables includes stabilising the electricity grid with energy storage and stronger interstate power lines to ensure that the grid continues to be reliable,” Blakers said.
“As Australia grapples with the challenge of securing its energy supply into the future, our study shows that we can make the switch to affordable and reliable clean power.”
Co-researcher Dr Matthew Stocks said Australia was installing about three Gigawatts per year of wind and solar photovoltaics.
“This rate is sufficient, if continued until 2030, for renewable energy to meet more than half of Australia’s electricity consumption needs and Australia’s entire Paris greenhouse emissions reduction target,” Stocks said.
“The Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro energy storage project could provide half of the new energy storage required. The other half of the additional storage could come from more pumped hydro, batteries in houses and in electric cars, and improved demand management.”
An ANU audit of 22,000 potential pumped hydro sites across Australia found two thirds of Australia’s fossil fuel generators will reach their end of life by 2036, and will need to be replaced either by fossil or renewable energy generators. Meeting Australia’s emissions pledge by substituting gas for coal requires retirement of 10 coal stations an average of 11 years prematurely.
At the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015, the Australian Government made a commitment to reduce its emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The Government said this commitment is similar to those announced by the European Union, USA, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.
Most of the reduction will come from a $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund, a voluntary scheme providing incentives for farmers and landholders to reduce emissions. The remainder will come from the National Energy Productivity Plan, ozone and HFC measures, as well as technology improvements and other sources of abatement.